Intersecting household level health and socio-economic vulnerabilities and the COVID-19 crisis: an analysis from the UK

Publication type

Journal Article

Published in

SSM - Population Health


Júlia Mikolai, Katherine Keenan and Hill Kulu

Publication date


The effects of COVID-19 are likely to be social stratified. Disease control measures introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic mean that people spend much more time in their immediate households, due to lockdowns, the need to self-isolate, and school and workplace closures. This has elevated the importance of certain household–level characteristics for individuals’ current and future wellbeing. The multi-dimensional poverty and health inequalities literature suggests that poor health and socio-economic conditions cluster in the general population, which may exacerbate societal inequalities over time. This study investigates how COVID-19-related health- and socio-economic vulnerabilities occur at the household level, and how they are distributed across household types and geographical areas in the United Kingdom. Using a nationally representative cross-sectional study of UK households and applying principal components analysis, we derived summary measures representing different dimensions of household vulnerabilities critical during the COVID-19 epidemic: health, employment, housing, financial and digital. Our analysis highlights four key findings. First, although COVID-19-related health risks are concentrated in retirement-age households, a substantial proportion of working age households also face these risks. Second, different types of households exhibit different vulnerabilities, with working-age households more likely to face financial and housing precarities, and retirement-age households health and digital vulnerabilities. Third, there are area-level differences in the distribution of household-level -vulnerabilities across England and the constituent countries of the United Kingdom. Fourth, in many households, different dimensions of vulnerabilities intersect; this is especially prevalent among working-age households. The findings imply that the short- and long-term consequences of the COVID-19 crisis are likely to significantly vary by household type. Policy measures that aim to mitigate the health and socio-economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic should consider how vulnerabilities cluster and interact with one another across different household types, and how these may exacerbate already existing inequalities.





Information And Communication Technologies, Area Effects, Geography, Demography, Households, Economics, Health, Social Stratification and Covid 19


Open Access; Under a Creative Commons license; © 2020 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd.; Online Early