Press release

BAME people’s experience of British lockdown significantly worse, Wellcome survey finds

People from Black and Asian minority ethnic (BAME) groups in Britain were far more likely than their White counterparts to be very concerned about the impact of coronavirus on their personal finances, physical and mental health at the height of lockdown, and less trusting of information on the disease from health sector and government sources, according to a new Wellcome survey. 


The survey of more than 2,600 people, conducted between March and April 2020, revealed that over a third (34%) of BAME respondents were ‘very concerned’ about the impact of the virus on their mental health, compared to around one-in-six (16%) White people.  

Three-in-10 (30%) BAME people were ‘very concerned’ about the impact of coronavirus on their physical health, compared to just over one-in-six (18%) White people.   

More than four-in-10 (43%) BAME people were ‘very concerned’ about the impact of the disease on their personal finances, compared to just under a quarter (23%) of White people.   

The research, which was conducted by the National Centre for Social Research on behalf of Wellcome, offers insight into the different experiences of lockdown within British society, and suggests what we might expect to see in the event of a resurgence.  

It found that information about what to do to minimise the risk of getting or spreading the coronavirus was significantly less clear to BAME people. Around half (52%) found the information ‘very clear’, compared to over seven-in-10 (71%) White people. Fewer than half (45%) of Black people found the information ‘very clear’. 

Half (50%) of BAME people also found it difficult to follow restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus, compared to almost four-in-ten (38%) White people. 

Carla Ross, Research and Evidence Lead at Wellcome, said: “COVID-19 has exposed the deep inequalities in our society, but it has also highlighted the diverse ways people are affected by the pandemic and by lockdown policies. As Europe teeters on the brink of a second wave and we see more local lockdowns, these findings show that a more targeted approach to messaging will be key to ensuring that different groups can access, understand and trust government guidance. We hope that local authorities and policymakers can use these findings to inform their public health strategies as we enter this critical period, and that employers can create safe working environments.” 

The report also found that BAME people in Britain were less likely than their White counterparts to trust information on coronavirus from a wide range of sources, including healthcare professionals, health scientists, the NHS, the government (including scientific advisers) and the WHO.  

Just under six-in-10 (57%) BAME people reported having either complete trust or a great deal of trust in information from health scientists, compared with three quarters (75%) of White people. Less than half (45%) of BAME people had either complete trust or a great deal of trust in information from government scientific advisers, compared with almost two thirds (65%) of White people.  

Half (50%) of people in BAME groups, and over six-in-10 Black people (62%) were very concerned about the effect of coronavirus on the education of their children, compared to fewer than four-in-10 (37%) White people.  

Stephani Hatch, Professor of Sociology and Epidemiology at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London, whose research addresses health inequities in this area, said: “These findings highlight the lack of attention paid to existing and emerging inequities experienced by racial and ethnic minority groups across the life course within health, education and research institutions. We need policymakers to put in place public health strategies that assess and demonstrate how they are addressing these inequities. We need government and research to demonstrate greater respect for the leadership and knowledge established within racial and ethnic minority groups. And we need to adopt a collective approach that engages these communities in how public health strategies and guidance can attend to and tackle inequalities.”