Muslims died of Covid at more than twice the rate of Christians in England, official data shows.
Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures released today show 4,191 Muslims died with the virus up to February 28.
The religious group was by far the worst affected in the country, with Muslim men having a death rate of 966.9 per 100,000 and women 519.1 per 100,000.
They were followed by Hindus (605.2 among men and 346.5 for women), Sikhs (573.6 and 345.7) and Jewish people (512.9 and 295.4) and Christians (401.9 and 249.6).
The least affected were atheists (336.6 and 218.2).
In its report the ONS did not explain why some religions were at higher risk than others.
Bu previous research has shown ethnic minority groups, and particularly South Asians, are at more risk of dying of Covid in the UK. This may be linked to higher rates of health problems like heart disease or to living in inner cities.
Experts have also suggested ethnic minority people are more likely to be on low incomes so working in public-facing jobs that increase their exposure to the virus.
The links are complicated but, when the ONS stripped out the effects of people’s health and lifestyles, the death risk supposedly linked to faith dropped significantly.
The report admitted it was ‘difficult to separate’ the link to religion from the link to ethnicity.
But the groups with the lowest Covid death rates in the report – Christians and atheists – were 94-95 per cent white.
Muslims had more than twice the Covid death rate of Christians in England during the pandemic, Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures released today show
In the first wave of the pandemic — from January 24 to September 11, 2020 — Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu men all had significantly higher death rates than Christian men
Muslim, Hindu and Sikh men and women all had statistically significant higher Covid death rates than Christians in the second wave — from September 12 to February 28
The ONS adjusted its death rates for age to counter the effects of younger people being less likely to die of Covid and also less likely to be religious, which could have skewed the results.
Statisticians then tried to adjust the death rates for location, wealth, occupation, living arrangements and pre-existing health conditions.
In the first wave of the pandemic — from January 24 to September 11, 2020 — Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu men all had significantly higher death rates than Christian men.
And Muslim, Hindu and Sikh men and women all had statistically significant higher Covid death rates than Christians in the second wave — from September 12 to February 28.
Across all religions men were more likely to die than women in either the first or second wave.
The ONS said: ‘After adjustments, the Hindu population and Muslim men were disproportionately affected throughout the pandemic.
‘For other religious groups, the excess risk relative to the Christian group was only observed in the first wave (Jewish and Buddhist men) or second wave (Sikh men and women and Muslim women).’
Muslim men were 2.3 times as likely to die with Covid than Christian men in the first wave and 3 times more likely in the second wave, when just adjusting for age.
But when the report took into account the men’s health, location and lifestyles the risk increase fell to 30 per cent and 93 per cent, respectively.
WHY WERE JEWISH PEOPLE MORE AT RISK?
Statisticians have admitted they were baffled as to why Jewish people appeared to be more at risk of dying from Covid-19, saying more research is needed to uncover the reason behind the increased odds of death.
But it is not the first time alarm bells have been rang over the risk of coronavirus in the Jewish community.
At the start of the crisis, Jewish leaders in Britain urged their community to ‘preserve life’ after it was claimed that five per cent of Covid funerals up to March 27 were Jewish ceremonies.
Sources told MailOnline they were confident most Jewish people were abiding by government guidance, while those from the ultra orthodox said its communities were following the rules.
Friday night dinners with family are often a highlight of the week in the Jewish community which involve close contact in the form of hugging and kissing. Jewish ceremonies such as bar mitzvahs also involve the sort of contact that were banned in the UK under social distancing guidelines.
The period before Passover, on April 8 last year, is always a popular time for celebrations within some parts of the community because it begins a period of semi-mourning called the Omer. Therefore, it is common for some Jewish families in Britain to hold many parties and social in February and March during the run-up to this period.
This shows that other aspects of the Muslim men’s lives – not their faith – were drivers behind a significant proportion of their Covid death risk.
After these adjustments, Muslim women were also still slightly more likely to have died with Covid in the first wave than Christian women.
The report said: ‘Further adjustments… reduced the excess risk observed in these groups, but rates of death involving Covid remained statistically significantly increased for all three groups compared with those identifying as Christian.’
The data also showed that atheists were nearly 20 per cent less likely than Christians to die with Covid.
When adjusting for just age, non-believers were 18 per cent less likely to die with Covid than Christians and women 16 per cent less likely.
But after adjusting for all factors, atheist men were nine per cent less likely and women eight per cent.
The ONS report did not make a direct link between the Covid death risk changes seen in religions and seen in ethnic groups.
Past research has repeatedly found that black and Asian populations in Britain have a higher risk of dying of Covid than white people.
And in this ONS report, 82 per cent of Hindu people were South Asian, 65 per cent of Muslims were South Asian and 8 per cent black, and 77 per cent of Sikhs were South Asian.
The report said: ‘For some religious groups, there is considerable overlap with ethnic background.
‘This means that it is difficult to separate the observed association between Covid-19 mortality risk and religion from the risk associated with ethnic background.’
A study by Queen Mary University in London, published in January, found that black, Asian and ethnic minority people were up to 50 per cent more likely than white people to die of Covid in hospital.
It found the risk of dying from Covid was 50 per cent greater in Asian Brits than white people. For black people, the risk was 30 per cent higher.
The study looked at hospital patients during the first wave of the crisis and researchers adjusted for other factors such as age, sex, obesity and whether they smoked.
The analysis of nearly 1,800 patients in hospitals in London also found the risk of falling critically ill and needing mechanical ventilation was 80 per cent greater in black Brits than white people at the first peak. For Asian patients the risk was 54 per cent larger.
Researchers behind the study said they were shocked that minority patients were ‘significantly younger in age’ and ‘less frail’ than white patients, despite being at a bigger risk of falling seriously unwell.
The research, published in BMJ Open, analysed records of 1,737 patients aged 16 years or over five hospitals within Barts Health NHS Trust in central London.