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Comparison of socio-economic determinants of COVID-19 testing and positivity in Canada: a multi-provincial analysis


Background — The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been more pronounced for socially disadvantaged populations. We sought to determine how access to SARS-CoV-2 testing and the likelihood of testing positive for COVID-19 were associated with demographic factors, socioeconomic status (SES) and social determinants of health (SDH) in three Canadian provinces.

Methods — An observational population-based cross-sectional study was conducted for the provinces of Ontario, Manitoba and New Brunswick between March 1, 2020 and April 27, 2021, using provincial health administrative data. After excluding residents of long-term care homes, those without current provincial health insurance and those who were tested for COVID-19 out of province, records from provincial healthcare administrative databases were reviewed for 16,900,661 healthcare users. Data was modelled separately for each province in accordance to a prespecified protocol and follow-up consultations among provincial statisticians and collaborators. We employed univariate and multivariate regression models to examine determinants of testing and test results.

Results — After adjustment for other variables, female sex and urban residency were positively associated with testing, while female sex was negatively associated with test positivity. In New Brunswick and Ontario, individuals living in higher income areas were more likely to be tested, whereas in Manitoba higher income was negatively associated with both testing and positivity. High ethnocultural composition was associated with lower testing rates. Both high ethnocultural composition and high situational vulnerability increased the odds of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2.

Discussion — We observed that multiple demographic, income and SDH factors were associated with SARS-CoV-2 testing and test positivity. Barriers to healthcare access identified in this study specifically relate to COVID-19 testing but may reflect broader inequities for certain at-risk groups.



Antonova L, Somayaji C, Cameron J, Sirski M, Sundaram ME, McDonald JT, Mishra S, Kwong JC, Katz A, Baral S, Caulley L, Calzavara A, Corsten M, Johnson-Obaseki S. PLoS One. 2023; 18(8):e0289292. Epub 2023 Aug 23.

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