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When lockdown policies amplify social inequalities in COVID-19 infections: evidence from a cross-sectional population-based survey in France

  • Bajos, Nathalie1
  • Jusot, Florence2
  • Pailhé, Ariane3
  • Spire, Alexis4
  • Martin, Claude4
  • Meyer, Laurence5
  • Lydié, Nathalie6
  • Franck, Jeanna-Eve1
  • Zins, Marie7
  • Carrat, Fabrice7
  • Bajos, Nathalie
  • Carrat, Fabrice
  • Ancel, Pierre-Yves
  • Charles, Marie-Aline
  • Jusot, Florence
  • Martin, Claude
  • Meyer, Laurence
  • Rouquette, Alexandra
  • Pailhé, Ariane
  • Severi, Gianluca
  • And 3 more
  • 1 Institut de Recherche Interdisciplinaire sur les enjeux Sociaux - Sciences sociales, politique, santé, IRIS (UMR 8156 CNRS - EHESS - U997 INSERM), 5 cours des humanités, Aubervilliers, 93322, France , Aubervilliers (France)
  • 2 Paris Dauphine University, Paris, France , Paris (France)
  • 3 National Institute for Demographic Studies, Paris, France , Paris (France)
  • 4 French National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris, France , Paris (France)
  • 5 University of Paris Sud, Paris, France , Paris (France)
  • 6 Santé publique France, Paris, France , Paris (France)
  • 7 Sorbonne University, Paris, France , Paris (France)
Published Article
BMC Public Health
Springer (Biomed Central Ltd.)
Publication Date
Apr 12, 2021
DOI: 10.1186/s12889-021-10521-5
Springer Nature


BackgroundSignificant differences in COVID-19 incidence by gender, class and race/ethnicity are recorded in many countries in the world. Lockdown measures, shown to be effective in reducing the number of new cases, may not have been effective in the same way for all, failing to protect the most vulnerable populations. This survey aims to assess social inequalities in the trends in COVID-19 infections following lockdown.MethodsA cross-sectional survey conducted among the general population in France in April 2020, during COVID-19 lockdown.Ten thousand one hundred one participants aged 18–64, from a national cohort who lived in the three metropolitan French regions most affected by the first wave of COVID-19.The main outcome was occurrence of possible COVID-19 symptoms, defined as the occurrence of sudden onset of cough, fever, dyspnea, ageusia and/or anosmia, that lasted more than 3 days in the 15 days before the survey. We used multinomial regression models to identify social and health factors related to possible COVID-19 before and during the lockdown.ResultsIn all, 1304 (13.0%; 95% CI: 12.0–14.0%) reported cases of possible COVID-19. The effect of lockdown on the occurrence of possible COVID-19 was different across social hierarchies. The most privileged class individuals saw a significant decline in possible COVID-19 infections between the period prior to lockdown and during the lockdown (from 8.8 to 4.3%, P = 0.0001) while the decline was less pronounced among working class individuals (6.9% before lockdown and 5.5% during lockdown, P = 0.03). This differential effect of lockdown remained significant after adjusting for other factors including history of chronic disease. The odds of being infected during lockdown as opposed to the prior period increased by 57% among working class individuals (OR = 1.57; 95% CI: 1.00–2.48). The same was true for those engaged in in-person professional activities during lockdown (OR = 1.53; 95% CI: 1.03–2.29).ConclusionsLockdown was associated with social inequalities in the decline in COVID-19 infections, calling for the adoption of preventive policies to account for living and working conditions. Such adoptions are critical to reduce social inequalities related to COVID-19, as working-class individuals also have the highest COVID-19 related mortality, due to higher prevalence of comorbidities.

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