Why COVID-19 is more deadly in people with obesity—even if they’re young
Since the pandemic began, dozens of studies have reported that many of the sickest COVID-19 patients have been people with obesity. In recent weeks, that link has come into sharper focus as large new population studies have cemented the association and demonstrated that even people who are merely overweight are at higher risk. For example, in the first meta-analysis of its kind, published on 26 August in Obesity Reviews, an international team of researchers pooled data from scores of peer-reviewed papers capturing 399,000 patients. They found that people with obesity who contracted SARS-CoV-2 were 113% more likely than people of healthy weight to land in the hospital, 74% more likely to be admitted to an ICU, and 48% more likely to die.
A constellation of physiological and social factors drives those grim numbers. The biology of obesity includes impaired immunity, chronic inflammation, and blood that’s prone to clot, all of which can worsen COVID-19. And because obesity is so stigmatized, people with obesity may avoid medical care.