Sociodemographic determinants of intraurban variations in COVID-19 incidence: The case of Barcelona

Antonio López-Gay*, Jeroen Spijker, Helen V.S. Cole, Antonio G. Marques, Margarita Triguero-Mas, Isabelle Anguelovski, Marc Marí-Dell'Olmo, Juan A. Módenes, Dolores Álamo-Junquera, Fernando López-Gallego, Carme Borrell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Intraurban sociodemographic risk factors for COVID-19 have yet to be fully understood. We investigated the relationship between COVID-19 incidence and sociodemographic factors in Barcelona at a fine-grained geography. Methods: This cross-sectional ecological study is based on 10 550 confirmed cases of COVID-19 registered during the first wave in the municipality of Barcelona (population 1.64 million). We considered 16 variables on the demographic structure, urban density, household conditions, socioeconomic status, mobility and health characteristics for 76 geographical units of analysis (neighbourhoods), using a lasso analysis to identify the most relevant variables. We then fitted a multivariate Quasi-Poisson model that explained the COVID-19 incidence by neighbourhood in relation to these variables. Results: Neighbourhoods with: (1) greater population density, (2) an aged population structure, (3) a high presence of nursing homes, (4) high proportions of individuals who left their residential area during lockdown and/or (5) working in health-related occupations were more likely to register a higher number of cases of COVID-19. Conversely, COVID-19 incidence was negatively associated with (6) percentage of residents with post-secondary education and (7) population born in countries with a high Human Development Index. Conclusion: Like other historical pandemics, the incidence of COVID-19 is associated with neighbourhood sociodemographic factors with a greater burden faced by already deprived areas. Because urban social and health injustices already existed in those geographical units with higher COVID-19 incidence in Barcelona, the current pandemic is likely to reinforce both health and social inequalities, and urban environmental injustice all together.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberjech-2020-216325
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Epidemiology and Community Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022


  • COVID-19
  • neighbourhood/place
  • public health
  • social inequalities
  • spatial analysis


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