Breaking|Mar 4, 2021,11:21am EST|1,165 views

Obesity And Covid Death Rate Closely Linked In New Study

Jemima McEvoyForbes StaffBusinessI’m a British-born reporter covering breaking news for Forbes.


An analysis of Covid-19 mortality data by the World Obesity Federation released Thursday found a “dramatic correlation” between countries’ death and obesity rates, shedding new light on the role obesity has played in driving a global death toll of over 2.5 million. 

Roman Catholic priest Martin Miskuf blesses a Covid-19 patient hospitalized at Covid-19 ward at … [+] AFP via Getty Images

Key Facts

Through analysis of Johns Hopkins University virus mortality data and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) data on obesity, the World Obesity Federation—a non-profit associated with the WHO—calculated that 2.2 million of the pandemic’s 2.5 million global deaths were in countries with high levels of obesity. 

The report found death rates were 10x higher in countries where more than 50% of the population is overweight, pointing to the U.K. and the U.S. as examples. 

The U.K. has the third-highest death rate in the world (184 deaths per 100,000 population) and the fourth-highest obesity rate with 63.7% of adults classifying as overweight, closely followed by the U.S., which has 152.49 deaths per 100,000 and 67.9% of the population living with obesity

Vietnam, on the other hand, has the lowest Covid-19 death rate in the world (0.04 deaths per 100,000), and also reports the second-lowest rate of obesity (18.3% of adults). 

The report highlights that there is “not a single example internationally” of a country with low levels of obesity—classified as less than 40% of the population overweight—and high death rates. 

While “age has been the predominant focus of analysis of risks of hospitalization and death to date” the summary points out “ this report shows for the first time that overweight populations come a close second.”

Crucial Quote 

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom said he hopes the report will act as a “wake-up call” to governments globally. “The correlation between obesity and mortality rates from Covid-19 is clear and compelling,” said Adhanom. 

Key Background 

Though this report unveils new detail, it’s not the first research outlining a connection between obesity and increased risk from Covid-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned that having obesity may triple the risk of hospitalization due to Covid-19 infection, noting: “As [body mass index] increases, the risk of death from Covid-19 increases.” Numerous studies, reviews and analyses have supported this connection, showing that higher BMI has been associated with increased risk of hospitalization, admission to intensive or critical care, the need for mechanically assisted ventilation and risk of deaths. 

Further Reading 

“Covid-19 and Obesity: The 2021 Atlas” (World Obesity Federation) 


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