Understanding the Relationship Between Social Risk Factors and COVID-19 Contacts

Perm J. 2023 Jun 15;27(2):18-22. doi: 10.7812/TPP/22.146. Epub 2023 Apr 18.


Introduction Social risks are associated with increased risk of COVID-19 transmission by limiting patients' ability to practice precautions and access care. Researchers need to understand the prevalence of patients' social risk factors during the pandemic and recognize how social risks may exacerbate COVID-19. Methods The authors conducted a national survey among Kaiser Permanente members between January and September 2020 and restricted analyses to those who responded to a set of COVID-19 items. The survey asked if they experienced social risks, knew of people with COVID-19, and if COVID-19 affected their emotional and mental health, and their preferred type of assistance. Results Social risks were reported by 62% of respondents, with 38% reporting having 2 or more social risks. Respondents most commonly reported financial strain (45%). One or more contact types with COVID-19 were reported by one-third of the respondents. Those with 2 or more COVID-19 contact types reported higher housing instability, financial strain, food insecurity, and social isolation than those with fewer contacts. Overall, 50% of respondents reported that COVID-19 negatively affected their emotional, mental health, and 19% noted that it affected their ability to maintain a job. Discussion People with any COVID-19 contacts reported more social risks compared to those who did not know anyone with COVID-19. This suggests that those with higher social risks during this time may have faced higher risk for COVID-19, or the converse may be true. Conclusion These findings highlight patients' social health during the pandemic and suggest that health systems develop interventions to assess social health and link patients to appropriate resources.

Keywords: COVID-19; health care delivery; social health.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Pandemics
  • Risk Factors
  • SARS-CoV-2