Is being overweight a risk factor for COVID-19?

In short - yes. A 2020 study, conducted by Popkin and colleagues, revealed that people with obesity who contract COVID-19 are:

  • 113% more likely than people of healthy weight to be hospitalised.
  • 4% more likely to be admitted to an intensive care unit.
  • 48% more likely to die. 

Being obese is also associated with underlying risk factors for COVID-19 such as hypertension, dyslipidaemia, type 2 diabetes and chronic kidney or liver disease. 

How many people are at risk?

According to the Social Market Foundation, the number of individuals that are either overweight or obese has approximately doubled since 1980, from 36% to 63% by 2018. 

The 2020 Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet, England found that the majority of adults in the UK were overweight or obese -  67% of men and 60% of women. 

The data also found that 26% of men and 29% of women were obese.

How do you know if you’re overweight?

The most commonly used method to detect whether a person is overweight or obese is by using a body mass index (BMI) calculator. 

A BMI measures whether you’re a healthy weight for your weight, height, age, sex, ethnic group (optional), and activity level. 

Generally a BMI of:

  • 18.5 - 24.9 means you're a healthy weight
  • 25 - 29.9 means you're overweight
  • 30 - 39.9 means you're obese
  • 40 - above means you're severely obese

The NHS also advises taking waist measurements to record any changes to your body.

What can you do about it?

The best thing you can do to reduce your risk against COVID-19 and other illnesses is to lose any excess weight - as well as following all other national guidance. 

This involves burning more calories than you consume via both exercise and a balanced diet.

Sign up to a FREE weight loss course

We appreciate that it’s not always this simple which is why we’re offering free weight-loss courses funded by the Essex County Council. 

Essex Wellbeing Service are currently offering a broad variety of free weight loss courses across Essex. Delivered in a range of formats, you have the ability to lose weight, your way. If you’re ready to start losing weight and start a living happier and healthier life, click below.


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