Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Background and aims: Sepsis is a serious and life-threatening condition caused by a dysregulated immune response to an infection. Recent guidance issued in the UK gave recommendations around recognition and antibiotic treatment of sepsis, but did not consider factors relating to health inequalities. The aim of this study was to summarise the literature investigating associations between health inequalities and sepsis. Methods: Searches were conducted in Embase for peer-reviewed articles published since 2010 that included sepsis in combination with one of the following five areas: socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, community factors, medical needs and pregnancy/maternity. Results: Five searches identified 1,402 studies, with 50 unique studies included in the review after screening (13 sociodemographic, 14 race/ethnicity, 3 community, 3 care/medical needs and 20 pregnancy/maternity; 3 papers examined multiple health inequalities). Most of the studies were conducted in the USA (31/50), with only four studies using UK data (all pregnancy related). Socioeconomic factors associated with increased sepsis incidence included lower socioeconomic status, unemployment and lower education level, although findings were not consistent across studies. For ethnicity, mixed results were reported. Living in a medically underserved area or being resident in a nursing home increased risk of sepsis. Mortality rates after sepsis were found to be higher in people living in rural areas or in those discharged to skilled nursing facilities while associations with ethnicity were mixed. Complications during delivery, caesarean-section delivery, increased deprivation and black and other ethnic minority race were associated with post-partum sepsis. Conclusion: There are clear correlations between sepsis morbidity and mortality and the presence of factors associated with health inequalities. To inform local guidance and drive public health measures, there is a need for studies conducted across more diverse setting and countries.

Original publication




Journal article


International Journal for Equity in Health

Publication Date