Black Michiganders with COVID-19 Suffer Worse Health, Socioeconomic Outcomes Than Whites

African American woman wearing a mask.

New research from Nancy Fleischer

Associate Professor of Epidemiology

Black COVID-19 survivors experience worse outcomes related to care access, recovery, and social and economic factors when compared to their white counterparts, according to research on the impact of COVID-19 on Michiganders.

The work, part of the Michigan COVID-19 Recovery Surveillance Study, is being conducted through a partnership with the University of Michigan School of Public Health and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Researchers hope data from the study will inform future response and health equity efforts for the ongoing pandemic as well as future public health crises.

Key findings from the study, which consisted of 637 surveys from COVID-19 survivors in Michigan, include:

  • More Black than white respondents reported severe or very severe symptoms (73% vs. 61%) or required an overnight hospital stay (45% vs. 28%).
  • More Black respondents reported increased social stressors since the start of the pandemic, with 26% being unable to pay important bills like mortgage, rent or utilities (versus 10% of white respondents).
  • About 9% of Black respondents believed their experiences seeking health care were worse than people from other races, while 19% of white respondents believed their experiences were better than people from other races.
    More Black respondents (23%) were afraid to disclose their COVID-19 status to their friends or family than white respondents (10%).

"We know that Black Michiganders, especially early in the pandemic, suffered disproportionately from COVID-19 compared to white Michiganders, in terms of infection and death," said lead investigator Nancy Fleischer, associate professor of Epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

"What this research shows is that Black Michiganders have also had more severe illness, had worse experiences with the health care system and suffered more from the economic consequences of the pandemic than white Michiganders. We can use this information to help reduce racial disparities from the impact of COVID-19 in our state."

"Since the start of the pandemic, Black and Brown communities have faced devastating and disproportionate harm," said Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy director for health for the MDHHS. "From health to financial security, this study shows minority populations experienced more challenges than other populations. MDHHS will continue to work with partners to promote equity and eliminate these disparities in health care access and deaths."

Data collection is still ongoing, and the researchers hope to include additional racial and ethnic groups in future reports.