Answering FAQs: Part 2

What about my personalised risk? How many would die anyway?

Anthony B. Masters


To help the Royal Statistical Society, I wrote answers to frequently asked questions about COVID-19.

The main constraint was a limit of 400 words. These are the original version of the articles. The posts were later improved by other authors.

How can I find my personalised risk?

In this pandemic, there are several risks to consider, including:

  • The risk of getting a SARS-CoV-2 infection;
  • The risk of infecting others;
  • The risk of dying due to COVID-19.

There are many factors which could affect your personal risk of infection and fatality. Analysis by the Office for National Statistics suggests age and sex matter for mortality due to COVID-19. Older people are more likely to die with the disease. In each age group, estimated mortality rates are higher for men than women. That analysis covers England and Wales, using death certificates registered up to 4th July 2020.

The University of Manchester produced the ‘Your COVID-19 Risk’ tool. The tool takes inputs of country, age, gender, working arrangements, and self-reported behaviours. The risk model is based on expert judgment and published research. A major limitation is this tool does not account for health conditions.

Keep washing your hands. Wear masks if you are going inside anywhere that is not your home. (Image: University of Manchester)

The output represents categories of estimated probabilities: getting an infection and infecting others. The tool recommends following guidance: keep your distance, wash your hands, quarantine if infected.

The University of Exeter produced a tool for calculating an individual risk score. Their analysis studied associations with demographic and health characteristics. The measures were hospitalisation with COVID-19 and dying due to the disease.

The British Medical Association adopted this tool for healthcare workers. This simplified score uses age, sex, ethnicity, and health conditions.

There are other tools, serving different purposes.

Calculators could miss major factors to your personal risk. The calculations often rely on statistical associations. There may be confounding…



Anthony B. Masters

This blog looks at the use of statistics in Britain and beyond. It is written by RSS Statistical Ambassador and Chartered Statistician @anthonybmasters.