The impact of obesity on COVID-19 outcomes of hospitalizations and mortality

By Xcenda

Since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic in March 2020, scientists, healthcare workers, and public health experts have learned a great deal about the pathophysiology of the coronavirus, as well as the patient populations who are most vulnerable. Understanding how to mitigate risk for these populations can have a tremendous impact on reducing hospitalizations, deaths, and associated healthcare costs. Obesity is linked with higher risk for several serious health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease, among others. But obesity has also emerged as a major risk factor for severe COVID-19 infection. Since over 40% of the US population has obesity, updating policies to support the treatment and prevention of this disease should be part of a comprehensive response to COVID-19.

This issue brief takes a look an Xcenda-developed model that shows that even a small reduction in obesity prevalence could result in fewer deaths from COVID-19. It also highlights the need for policymakers to ensure all patients have access to anti-obesity services and treatments to potentially reduce the risk of adverse outcomes from pandemics in the future.


*June 2021 update: we refreshed the model to include adverse outcomes due to COVID-19 as of April 2021. The results are sobering: if the prevalence of obesity were reduced by 25% at the start of the pandemic, the US would have had 119,000 fewer hospitalizations, almost 45,000 ICU admissions, and 65,000 fewer deaths. The updated issue brief can be found here.

outline of people with virus background

Issue brief

The impact of obesity on COVID-19 outcomes of hospitalizations and mortality