5 Social Determinants of Health Contributing to Increased COVID-19 Risk


Discrimination, which includes racism, can lead to chronic and toxic stress and shapes social and economic factors and systems – such as health care, education and justice – putting people from racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk for COVID-19.

Health Care Access

Health care access can be limited due to lack of insurance, transportation, child care and ability to take time off work; communication barriers; lack of cultural competence among providers; and distrust of health care systems responsible for inequities in treatment.


People from some racial and ethnic minority groups are disproportionately represented in essential work settings – such as health care facilities, grocery stores, hospitality and public transportation – and have more chances of being exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19. Many workers in these occupations do not have the option to work from home and often do not have paid sick leave.

Educational, Income and Wealth Gaps

Inequities in access to high-quality education can lead to lower high school completion rates and barriers to college entrance, impacting future job options and earning power. Limited job options means less flexibility to leave occupations that put people at higher risk of exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19.


Some people from racial and ethnic minority groups live in crowded conditions, making it more challenging to follow prevention strategies. In some cultures, it is common for family members of many generations to live in one household. Growing and disproportionate unemployment rates during the COVID-19 pandemic also leads to greater risk of eviction and homelessness or sharing of housing.

*Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention