Older and obese people at higher risk of COVID-19 hospitalisation

Friday, 24 April 2020

Older people or those who are obese are more likely to be admitted to hospital with COVID-19 than those with cancer or lung disease, research reported by Diabetes UK has shown.

Study one

According to two studies carried out in New York involving 8,000 people, being over 65 or obese are the biggest risk factors for becoming seriously unwell with coronavirus.

One of the studies, published in the Clinical Infectious Diseases Journal, found obese under 60s were twice as likely to be admitted to hospital care and require ventilation.

The researchers wrote: “Unfortunately, obesity in people [under 60] is a newly identified epidemiologic risk factor, which may contribute to increased morbidity rates experienced in the US.”

Weight gain

This issue may be compounded by the fact that one challenge we each face in this new age of social distancing is avoiding weight-gain.

However, the foods that we choose can play a huge part in helping us lose weight, manage our blood glucose levels, and stay fit and healthy in quarantine.

Study two

The other New York University study found that nearly half (46 per cent) of those who had been admitted to hospital with COVID-19 were over the age of 65.

Due to the speed of the development of the COVID-19 pandemic and the huge surge of research into it, the paper is currently pending peer-review. The findings cannot yet be used for clinical guidance. However, they strongly suggest that while age was a concern, obesity was the biggest COVID-19 risk factor.

The researchers wrote: “The chronic condition with the strongest association with critical illness was obesity, with a substantially higher odds ratio than any cardiovascular or pulmonary disease.”

Obesity and risk

It is thought the reason people who are obese are more at risk is because their immune system is busy trying to repair inflammation which has been caused by carrying extra fat.

The link between obesity, body fat, and inflammation is complicated. There is growing evidence that weight is related to many different aspects of metabolic syndrome.

Evidence now shows that being overweight or obese is the cause for nearly 4,000 cancer cases in Australia each year. (1)


The findings have been published on the archive site medRxiv.

(1) https://www.cancercouncil.com.au/1in3cancers/lifestyle-choices-and-cancer/overweight-obesity-and-cancer/

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