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Is obesity a major risk factor for Covid-19?

Medically reviewed by Carmen Fookes, BPharm. Last updated on Oct 11, 2021.

Official answer


Obesity is a major risk factor for covid-19 and people who are obese are more likely than those who are not obese to:

  • Contract Covid-19 at a younger age
  • Develop severe Covid-19
  • Require hospitalization. Studies have shown the risk may be tripled in those who are obese
  • Require admission into ICU
  • End up in hospital sooner
  • Require oxygen
  • Require mechanical ventilation
  • Require intubation
  • Die from Covid-19.

Obesity is linked to impaired immune function, and also decreased lung capacity and reserve, making ventilation more difficult. The increased risk for hospitalization or death is particularly pronounced in those under age 65 with an estimated 30.2% of Covid-19 hospitalizations attributed to obesity.

Children diagnosed with obesity may suffer worse outcomes from COVID-19. In those aged 18 years and younger, having obesity was associated with a 3.07 times higher risk of hospitalization and a 1.42 times higher risk of severe illness.

Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black adults have a higher prevalence of obesity and are more likely to suffer worse outcomes from COVID-19.

How can you reduce obesity as a major risk factor for Covid-19?

Any weight loss can help reduce the risk of contracting or being hospitalized with Covid-19.

  • Choose healthier foods and beverages for you and your family. Keep portion sizes small.
  • Exercise every day. Walk to work or school, take the stairs, join a gym. Start off slowly if you haven’t exercised for a while until you are exercising for at least 45 minutes, most days of the week.
  • Limit screen time to no more than two hours a day.
  • Drink water throughout the day.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night.
  • If you have any medical conditions, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure, take your medications as prescribed and see your doctor regularly.
  • Use relaxation techniques to help manage stress.
  • Obesity, Race/Ethnicity, and COVID-19 2020
  • Mohammad Tohidul Amin, Kaniz Fatema, Sayema Arefin, Fahad Hussain, Dipty Rani Bhowmik, Mohammad Salim Hossain; Obesity, a major risk factor for immunity and severe outcomes of COVID-19. Biosci Rep 27 August 2021; 41 (8): BSR20210979.
  • Amin MT, Fatema K, Arefin S, Hussain F, Bhowmik DR, Hossain MS. Obesity, a major risk factor for immunity and severe outcomes of COVID-19. Biosci Rep. 2021 Aug 27;41(8):BSR20210979. doi: 10.1042/BSR20210979. PMID: 34350941; PMCID: PMC8380923.

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