Study Links Obesity, COVID-19 Mortality

Early in the pandemic about 1 in 5 people admitted to the hospital with a COVID-19 diagnosis had obesity and in younger adults, obesity was associated with a doubling of the mortality risk.

One of largest studies so far of the risk factors for death among patients hospitalized for COVID-19 during the early months of the pandemic found that obesity almost doubled the mortality risk in the younger adults.

Results reported earlier this month in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases show that obesity was associated with an increased mortality risk of 92% among hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the 20–39 age group. The increased mortality risk in that age group for uncomplicated hypertension was 68% and for complicated hypertension, 133%.

But as this table of shows, the mortality risk associated with obesity declined in the older age groups, according to this study.

This research conducted by Katherine E. Goodman of the University of Maryland School of Medicine and her colleagues focused on hospital admissions during March, April, May and June of 2020, the period when COVID-19 was taking off in the U.S. There were no vaccines and clinicians were still figuring out how to best treat the disease.

Goodman and her colleagues conducted their study using data from the Premier Healthcare Database that captures about one-fourth of U.S. hospital discharges.

Combing through data on more than a million admissions, they identified 66,646 admissions at 613 hospitals that had a COVID-19 diagnosis. Of those COVID-19 admissions, 42,102 (63%) had COVID-19 as the main diagnosis.

Their results show that almost 1 in 5 (12,388 of 66,646, or 18.6%) of the patients admitted with a COVID-19 diagnosis in those early months of the pandemic died.

Obesity was common among those admitted with a COVID-19 diagnosis the researchers found. Roughly 1 in 5 (21.1%) of the COVID-19 patients were obese, according to the result.

This table shows the prevalence of obesity and some other conditions among those admitted with a COVID-19 diagnosis.