While young age seems to be somewhat protective for severe COVID-19, one factor may significantly change the risk and outcome for young people. Studies are finding that obesity puts younger people at risk for severe COVID-19.
In fact, studies are linking obesity and severe COVID-19, and obesity and younger patients around the world. Here are the details of the studies and what they mean for us moving forward.
Obesity Puts Younger People at Risk for Severe COVID-19
A Snap Shot Analysis from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
A recent analysis from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine suggests that young, obese individuals are a high-risk group for severe COVID-19.
The investigators studied 265 patients from late March to early April who were admitted to hospitals due to COVID-19. They found that obesity was one of the biggest risk factors for severe OCOD-19 specifically in these younger patients.
While many young people feel immune to severe COVID-19 disease, it’s important for them to realize that obesity is a strong risk-factor, putting them at high risk similar to elderly patients (1).
Other scientists are finding similar results.
First, a large British study showed that obesity was a significant factor associated with in-hospital death of COVID-19.
Next, a study from New York found that among those under 60, people who were obese were two times as likely to need hospitalization for COVID-19. They were also significantly more likely to require intensive care (2).
Yet another New York hospital has found that a high BMI, over 40 kg/m2, has the second strongest link to hospitalization for COVID-19. It’s second only to advanced age. In fact, obesity increased hospitalization by more than sixfold.
A fourth study followed 48 children and young adults who were admitted to pediatric ICUs in the United States and Canada during March and April for COVID-19. These patients ranged in age from newborns to 21 years old. More than 80% of these patients had underlying conditions such as obesity, diabetes, immune suppression, seizures, or chronic lung disease. Twenty percent experienced failure of multiple organs due to COVID-19, and nearly 40 percent required a ventilator. Risk factors such as obesity and diabetes are putting our young people at risk for severe COVID-19 (3).
Lastly, a new French study showed that obesity was a strong risk factor for patient admission to its hospitals and intensive care, and severity increased with increasing BMI.
What’s the Implication?
These findings point out a huge challenge. Nearly 20% 40% of adults in the US are obese with a BMI greater than 30 (4). What’s more, many obese patients also have compromised lungs, immune systems, and compounding diagnoses such as diabetes.
While advanced age continues to be the greatest risk factor, obesity is a significant one in the United States.