Evidence has shown that obesity is an independent risk factor for severe symptoms from COVID-19. Even after controlling for other health conditions and demographics, a person who is living with obesity is 44% more likely to be critically ill from COVID-19 compared to a healthy weight person, and the risk of dying increases by 27% if have Body Mass Index (BMI) 30-34.9 (hazard ratio 1.27, 95% CI 1.18-1.36), rising to more than twice the risk if have BMI greater than 40 (hazard ratio 2.27, 95% CI 1.99-2.58).
These statistics become even more concerning when one considers the population inequalities that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed. For some time, we have known that obesity prevalence is much higher in people who live in more deprived areas, and in certain ethnic minority groups. The prevalence of childhood obesity is over twice as high in the most deprived areas relative to the least deprived areas and this gap is widening over time.
There is a clear economic case for preventing and treating obesity. Within the UK National Health Service (NHS), the direct annual costs from treating health complications associated with obesity is over £6bn, with wider costs to society of £27 bn. As well as the serious health consequences, obesity also leads to lower levels of quality of life, increased risk of social stigmatization, depression, low self-esteem and in some children lower levels of educational attainment.