Urban and sub-urban disparities in health outcomes among patients with COVID-19; a cross-sectional study of 234 418 patients in Iran

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Background It remains crucial to understand socio-demographic determinants of COVID-19 infection to improve access to care and recovery rates from the disease. This study aimed to investigate the urban and sub-urban disparities associated with COVID-19 in patients visiting healthcare facilities in the province of Tehran, Iran.

Methods Data from 234 418 patients who were diagnosed with COVID-19 infection from March 2020 to March 2021 in the province of Tehran were used in this analysis. Descriptive statistics were used to describe the characteristics of the study population. Chi-Squared test was applied to examine the association of study variables with residing area. Independent samples t-test was performed to compare mean age of patients in urban and sub-urban areas. Multiple Logistic Regression model was applied to examine the association of study variables with disease outcome.

Results Overall, most patients resided in the urban settings (73%). Mean age of patients was significantly lower in sub-urban areas compared to their counterparts in urban settings (49 ± 23.1 years versus 53 ± 21.1 years, P < 0.001). Positive PCR test results were more common in urban areas (48.5% versus 41.3%, P < 0.001). Yet, sub-urban settings had higher rates of positive chest CT scan reports (62.8% versus 53.4%, P < 0.001). After accounting for age and sex covariates, residing in urban areas was associated with higher likelihood of being admitted to an ICU (OR = 1.27, CI: 1.240-1.305). Yet, a greater vulnerability to fatal outcome of COVID-19 infection was shown in patients living in sub-urban areas (OR = 1.13, CI: 1.105-1.175).

Conclusions This study revealed a clear disparity in the health outcome of patients infected with COVID-19 between urban and sub-urban areas.

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