Occupational risk of COVID-19 in foreign-born employees in Denmark

J P E Bonde, L M Begtrup, J H Jensen, E M Flachs, K Jakobsson, C Nielsen, K Nilsson, L Rylander, A Vilhelmsson, K U Petersen, S S Tøttenborg


BACKGROUND: Foreign-born workers in high-income countries experience higher rates of COVID-19 but the causes are only partially known.

AIMS: To examine if the occupational risk of COVID-19 in foreign-born workers deviates from the risk in native-born employees in Denmark.

METHODS: Within a registry-based cohort of all residents employed in Denmark (n = 2 451 542), we identified four-digit DISCO-08 occupations associated with an increased incidence of COVID-19-related hospital admission during 2020-21 (at-risk occupations). The sex-specific prevalence of at-risk employment in foreign born was compared with the prevalence in native born. Moreover, we examined if the country of birth modified the risk of a positive SARS-CoV-2 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test and COVID-19-related hospital admission in at-risk occupations.

RESULTS: Workers born in low-income countries and male workers from Eastern Europe more often worked in at-risk occupations (relative risks between 1.16 [95% confidence interval {CI} 1.14-1.17] and 1.87 [95% CI 1.82-1.90]). Being foreign-born modified the adjusted risk of PCR test positivity (test for interaction P < 0.0001), primarily because of higher risk in at-risk occupations among men born in Eastern European countries (incidence rate ratio [IRR] 2.39 [95% CI 2.09-2.72] versus IRR 1.19 [95% CI 1.14-1.23] in native-born men). For COVID-19-related hospital admission, no overall interaction was seen, and in women, country of birth did not consistently modify the occupational risk.

CONCLUSIONS: Workplace viral transmission may contribute to an excess risk of COVID-19 in male workers born in Eastern Europe, but most foreign-born employees in at-risk occupations seem not to be at higher occupational risk than native born.

TidsskriftOccupational medicine (Oxford, England)
Udgave nummer1
Sider (fra-til)63-70
Antal sider8
StatusUdgivet - 19 feb. 2024


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