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Study finds positive association between obesity and COVID-19 mortality across 142 countries

Study finds positive association between obesity and COVID-19 mortality across 142 countries

In a recent study published within the journal Scientific Reports, researchers determined the association between coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)-associated deaths and the proportion of obese adults across 142 nations.

Study: Obesity and COVID-19 mortality are correlated. Image Credit: Anatta_Tan / Shutterstock.com


Obese adult individuals are mainly concentrated in relatively high-income nations, whereas low-income nations comprise more significant proportions of lean individuals. Interestingly, the mortality rates of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections are frequently higher amongst more prosperous nations.

Obesity may result in several chronic medical conditions that might end in death from COVID-19. Moreover, obesity might increase the duration and volume of SARS-CoV-2 shedding, which can contribute to greater viral transmissibility to others.

Previous studies have reported poorer COVID-19 outcomes and survival probability amongst obese individuals infected with SARS-CoV-2. Most studies assessing the connection between obesity and COVID-19 mortality were conducted at a person level. Because of this, they’re subject to greater noise and non-uniformity when it comes to their study methodology, design, sample size, and intervention. International-level data on the association between SARS-CoV-2 infection-associated deaths and obesity are limited.

In regards to the study

In the current study, researchers explore obesity as a determinant of country-level variations in mortality rates of SARS-CoV-2 infections.

Data on COVID-19-associated mortality were provided by the European Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC). Comparatively, data on obese adult proportions were retrieved from the Global Health Observatory (GHO) database of the World Health Organization (WHO). Individuals with body mass index (BMI) values exceeding 30.0 kg/m2 were considered obese, whereas those with BMI values between 25.0 kg/m2 and 29.9 kg/m2 were considered obese.

Data on population-level parameters, including the proportion of older individuals over the age of 65 years, median participant age, and the proportion of ladies, were retrieved from population estimates published by the United Nations Population Division. Data on nation-level income, which were categorized as low, lower-middle, upper-middle, and high, were determined by per capita Gross National Income (GNI) estimates of 2019 that were determined through the usage of the World Bank’s Atlas classification technique.

Nations with per capita GNI of at the very least $12,536 constituted high-household income nations, whereas those with per capita GNI between $4,046 and $12,535 were considered upper-middle-household income nations. Nations with per capita GNI between $1,036 and $4,045 were considered lower-middle-household income nations, whereas nations with per capita GNI lower than $1,035 were considered low-household income nations.

Multivariate and weighted polynomial-type regression modeling were performed to estimate the link between COVID-19 mortality and obesity.


A major, positive, and partial relationship was observed between COVID-19-related deaths and the proportion of obese adults residing in 142 nations, no matter median participant age, sex, the proportion of older individuals, and the feminine population. The boundaries of confidence intervals centered across the point elasticity estimates for COVID-19-associated mortality elasticities amongst obese adults prolonged between 0.70 and a pair of.10.

The anticipated elasticity for COVID-19-related mortality regarding the proportion of obese adults was the best for high-income nations. On average, each percent point increment in the proportion of obese adults contributed to an extra 1.50% points to SARS-CoV-2 infection-associated mortality amongst individuals residing in wealthy nations.

A previous study reported that the boldness interval limits computed around the expected point elasticities regarding the proportion of obese adults ranged between 0.20 and 5.40. The current study reported more tightly distributed predicted point elasticities that were computed for obese adult individuals in comparison with those reported for obese adult individuals.


The study findings showed a positive association between COVID-19-associated mortality and obesity, thus indicating that effective weight management strategies and programs could aid in improving COVID-19 severity outcomes and reducing the health burden of the disease. These findings add to the scientific literature on COVID-19 and highlight the good thing about weight-lowering interventions in stopping death from SARS-CoV-2 infections.

Nonetheless, the validity of the study findings obtained in an inter-country regression modeling evaluation might be questioned, as nations may need limited commonalities that may merit their inclusion within the regression evaluation. Moreover, in regard to the credibility of sources that enable access to relevant information, the study findings ought to be interpreted cautiously for the reason that reliability and quality of knowledge on SARS-CoV-2 infections is likely to be sensitive to the accuracy of documentation, which may vary across nations.

Journal reference:

  • Arulanandam, B., Beladi, H. & Chakrabarti, A. (2023). Obesity and COVID-19 mortality are correlated. Scientific Reports 13(5895). doi:10.1038/s41598-023-33093-3.


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