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Coronavirus and Obesity: Overweight is a Major Factor Affect Mortality Rates Due to COVID-19

Coronavirus and Obesity: Overweight is a Major Factor Affect Mortality Rates Due to COVID-19

Overweight, Obesity and Coronavirus Mortality Rates

After a year of pandemic, some patterns have become clear. The highest fatality rates occur in states with:

  • High population densities, like large cities (NY, NJ, IL, IN, MI, MA, PA, CT, etc.)
  • Aging populations (Florida, Arizona) and
  • High rates of obesity (LA, SC, MS) and in general the Deep South and Midwest.
Surgical mask, also called a face mask

COVID-19 Risk Factors

There are now studies that lay out who is at risk of being hospitalized or dying from COVID and why:

Risk of hospitalization: Among 4,899,447 hospitalized adults in PHD-SR, 540,667 (11.0%) were patients with COVID-19, of whom

  1. 94.9% had at least 1 underlying medical condition.
  2. Essential hypertension (50.4%),
  3. disorders of lipid metabolism (49.4%), and
  4. obesity (33.0%) were the most common.

Risk of Death were

  1. obesity (adjusted risk ratio [aRR] = 1.30; 95% CI, 1.27–1.33),
  2. anxiety and fear-related disorders (aRR = 1.28; 95% CI, 1.25–1.31), and
  3. diabetes with complication (aRR = 1.26; 95% CI, 1.24–1.28),

Obesity and COVID-19

The Lancet: Increasing COVID-19 caseloads were associated with countries with higher obesity (adjusted rate ratio [RR]=1.06; 95%CI: 1.01–1.11), median population age (RR=1.10; 95%CI: 1.05–1.15) and longer time to border closures from the first reported case (RR=1.04; 95%CI: 1.01–1.08). Increased mortality per million was significantly associated with higher obesity prevalence (RR=1.12; 95%CI: 1.06–1.19)

Obesity raised death rates by 12%, which may explain Britain's high death toll

High rates of obesity appeared to increase the number of infections by six per cent, and a delay to border closure - around a baseline of 23 days from the first case in that country - appeared to increase cases by four per cent.

CNN, March 5, 2021:

The risk of death from Covid-19 is about 10 times higher in countries where most of the population is overweight, according to a report released Wednesday by the World Obesity Federation.

Researchers found that by the end of 2020, global Covid-19 death rates were more than 10 times higher in countries where more than half the adults are overweight, compared to countries where fewer than half are overweight.

The team examined mortality data from Johns Hopkins University (JHU) and the World Health Organization (WHO) and found that of 2.5 million Covid-19 deaths reported by the end of February, 2.2 million were in countries where more than half the population is overweight.

Why obesity affects COVID-19 Mortality

Overweight and obesity is highly correlated to a number of health problems, such as a high-A1C, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, and cancer. People with these conditions have an increased risk of severe disease and death due to COVID-19 infection. BioMedCentral says:

Obesity has emerged as a novel risk factor for hospitalization and death due to COVID-19. Several independent studies have observed that people with obesity are at a greater risk of severe disease and death due to COVID-19.

CDC conclusions about the effect of obesity on COVID-19

The CDC on obesity says:

Children diagnosed with obesity may suffer worse outcomes from COVID-19. In a study of COVID-19 cases in patients aged 18 years and younger, having obesity was associated with a 3.07 times higher risk of hospitalization and a 1.42 times higher risk of severe illness (intensive care unit admission, invasive mechanical ventilation, or death) when hospitalized.7

Obesity rates by state from CDCObesity rates by state

Each year CDC releases the Adult Obesity Prevalence Maps for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and US territories. The maps show self-reported adult obesity prevalence by race, ethnicity, and location. The data comes from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, an on-going state-based, telephone interview survey conducted by CDC and state health departments.

The 2018 maps show that obesity impacts some groups more than others. There are notable differences by race and ethnicity, as shown by combined data from 2016-2018:

  • 2 states had an obesity prevalence of 35 percent or higher among non-Hispanic white adults.
  • 9 states had an obesity prevalence of 35 percent or higher among Hispanic adults.
  • 29 states and the District of Columbia had an obesity prevalence of 35 percent or higher among non-Hispanic black adults.

Obesity and Age

Obesity is also high among another group at risk, the elderlyCensus - map of elderly

  • Percent of noninstitutionalized persons with obesity (2013-2016)
    • Men aged 65-74: 40.2%
    • Men aged 75 and over: 28.0%
    • Women aged 65-74: 43.5%
    • Women aged 75 and over: 32.7%

Source: Health, United States, 2018, table 26 [PDF 9.8 MB]

States with high elderly populationsCensus age map - elderly ststes

Of course, being elderly and obese is even more dangerous. The U.S. Census Bureau shows us which areas have the highest populations of elderly people. Examining these maps at right, we see that again, it correlates to those states with the higher mortality rates from Coronavirus, with the exception of Montana, which has a very low population density being a very rural and sparsely populated state..

U.S. Population DensityU.S. Population Density

The Census Bureau also has population density maps, shown at right. Again, we see a high degree of correlation of the states with the highest mortality rates an d the states with the area of highest population density.

When you drill down to a county-by-county correlation between age and COVID mortality, the fit is very, very, close, implying that the virus spreads more when people are in close proximity, and this leads to higher death rates, as would be expected.