Global Association of Obesity and COVID-19 Death Rates

Author(s): Mary Adams

COVID-19 was responsible for an enormous global death toll with large variation among countries, and obesity noted in many studies as a key risk for complications. This study was conducted to estimate the contribution of obesity to COVID deaths prior to vaccine distribution by measuring associations between obesity rates and COVID deaths/million population through 2/25/2021.

Methods: Using Excel, COVID deaths/million for 167 countries grouped by population size, continent or obesity rate were regressed separately on their obesity rate in 2016. Using the least squares formula for the best fit for each model, components of the formula, R2, and the percentage of world population represented, were documented for each group.

Results: Obesity rates ranged from 2.1% to 37.9% and death rates ranged from 0.4/million to 1,892/million. Results for groups ranked by population and for Asia and Africa had R2 from 0.30 to 0.90 with slopes of the fitted line ranging from 11.1-51.0. Countries with obesity rates <15% all had death rates ≤233/million, R2 of 0.003, and slope of the line=1.01.

Conclusions: For most countries, ≥ 30% of the difference in COVID death rates was explained by obesity rates, while in countries with obesity <15% (all in Asia or Africa), consistently low death rates were not associated with obesity. Differences in obesity rates are likely related to diet and exercise while death rates can be affected by many factors. Reduced obesity rates especially below 15% could potentially have lowered the COVID death

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