Background Previous studies have highlighted the large extent of inequality in adverse COVID-19 health outcomes. Our aim was to monitor changes in overall, and inequalities in, COVID-19 years of life lost to premature mortality (YLL) in Scotland from 2020 and 2021.

Methods Cause-specific COVID-19 mortality counts were derived at age group and area deprivation level using Scottish death registrations for 2020 and 2021. YLL was estimated by multiplying mortality counts by age-conditional life expectancy from the Global Burden of Disease 2019 reference life table. Various measures of absolute and relative inequality were estimated for triangulation purposes.

Results There were marked inequalities in COVID-19 YLL by area deprivation in 2020, which were further exacerbated in 2021; confirmed across all measures of absolute and relative inequality. Half (51%) of COVID-19 YLL was attributable to inequalities in area deprivation in 2021, an increase from 41% in 2020.

Conclusion Despite a highly impactful vaccination programme in preventing mortality, COVID-19 continues to represent a substantial area of fatal population health loss for which inequalities have widened. Tackling systemic inequalities with effective interventions is required to mitigate further unjust health loss in the Scottish population from COVID-19 and other causes of ill-health and mortality.


© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2022. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.

Cite as

Wyper, G., Fletcher, E., Grant, I., Harding, O., de Haro Moro, M., McCartney, G. & Stockton, D. 2022, 'Widening of inequalities in COVID-19 years of life lost from 2020 to 2021: a Scottish Burden of Disease Study', Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jech-2022-219090

Downloadable citations

Download HTML citationHTML Download BIB citationBIB Download RIS citationRIS
Last updated: 16 June 2022
Was this page helpful?