Obesity health risks from COVID-19

Unfortunately, if you have a higher BMI, you’re more likely to get seriously ill from COVID-191.

COVID-19 & Obesity health risks

Two thirds of Australians are overweight or obese.2 With COVID-19 circulating in the community, you have a 46% higher chance of getting COVID3 and you’re more likely to be hospitalised and need ventilation.

Chronic inflammation, a weakened immune system and metabolic problems are all believed to be why you’re at increased risk of complication from COVID-19. It may also be because of impaired lung function from excess weight4.

If you get COVID-19, it may also increase the population infection as the viral load may be higher5 and viral shedding takes longer6.

Hospitalisation and therapies for COVID-19

Patients with obesity who contract COVID-19 have a 113% higher risk of being hospitalised3.

Studies have also found people with obesity are more likely to need oxygen and invasive mechanical ventilation if you’re diagnosed with COVID-197.

You’re also 74% more likely to be admitted to the intense care unit3.

Other common therapies, such as intubation, masks and lying patients on their front to reduce lung pressure, can be more difficult with a larger body mass3.


Unfortunately, you may have a higher risk of dying from COVID-19 if you have obesity. The risk of death increases with the level of obesity8.

How to avoid complications from COVID-19

There is good news. COVID-19 vaccinations are shown to be effective in people with obesity9. One of the best ways to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated.

Studies have also found that treating obesity successfully reduces your chances of complications if you get COVID-1910. It will also lower your risk of other diseases like Type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

Other diseases linked to Obesity
1 Simonnet A, Chetboun M, Poissy J, et al. High Prevalence of Obesity in Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) Requiring Invasive Mechanical Ventilation. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2020;28(7):1195-1199. doi:10.1002/oby.22831 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/oby.22831

2 AIHW – A picture of overweight and obesity in Australia. Available – https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/overweight-obesity/a-picture-of-overweight-and-obesity-in-australia/notesAccessed May 2021

3 Popkin, BM, Du, S, Green, WD, et al. Individuals with obesity and COVID-19: A global perspective on the epidemiology and biological relationships. Obesity Reviews. 2020; 21:e13128. https://doi.org/10.1111/obr.13128

4 Dixon AE, Peters U. The effect of obesity on lung function. Expert Rev Respir Med 2018;12:755–67. https://doi.org/10.1080/17476348.2018.1506331external iconPMID:30056777

5 Dicker D, Bettini S, Farpour-Lambert N, et al. Obesity and COVID-19: The Two Sides of the Coin [published online ahead of print, 2020 Jul 13]. Obes Facts. 2020;1-9. doi:10.1159/000510005 https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/510005

6 Felix Clemens Richter et al Impact of obesity and SARS-CoV-2 infection: implications for host defence – a living review Oxford Open Immunology, 2021 2(1), doi:10.1093/oxfimm/iqab001

7 Longmore DK, Miller JE, Bekkering S, et al. Diabetes and Overweight/Obesity Are Independent, Nonadditive Risk Factors for In-Hospital Severity of COVID-19: An International, Multicenter Retrospective Meta-analysis. Diabetes Care. 2021;44(6):1281-1290. doi:10.2337/dc20-2676 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33858854/#.

8  Kompaniyets L, Goodman AB, Belay B, et al. Body Mass Index and Risk for COVID-19–Related Hospitalization, Intensive Care Unit Admission, Invasive Mechanical Ventilation, and Death — United States, March–December 2020. (2021). MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2021;70:355–361. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7010e4.htm

9 Butsch WS, Hajduk A, Cardel MI, et al. COVID-19 vaccines are effective in people with obesity: A position statement from The Obesity Society. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2021;29(10):1575-1579. doi:10.1002/oby.23251 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/oby.23251

10 Aminian A, Fathalizadeh A, Tu C, et al. Association of prior metabolic and bariatric surgery with severity of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in patients with obesity. Surg Obes Relat Dis. 2021;17(1):208-214. doi:10.1016/j.soard.2020.10.026 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33243670/