Obesity and COVID-19 Severity in a Designated Hospital in Shenzhen, China

Diabetes Care. 2020 Jul;43(7):1392-1398. doi: 10.2337/dc20-0576. Epub 2020 May 14.


Objective: Patients with obesity are at increased risk of exacerbations from viral respiratory infections. However, the association of obesity with the severity of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is unclear. We examined this association using data from the only referral hospital in Shenzhen, China.

Research design and methods: A total of 383 consecutively hospitalized patients with COVID-19 admitted from 11 January 2020 to 16 February 2020 and followed until 26 March 2020 at the Third People's Hospital of Shenzhen were included. Underweight was defined as a BMI <18.5 kg/m2, normal weight as 18.5-23.9 kg/m2, overweight as 24.0-27.9 kg/m2, and obesity as ≥28 kg/m2.

Results: Of the 383 patients, 53.1% were normal weight, 4.2% were underweight, 32.0% were overweight, and 10.7% were obese at admission. Obese patients tended to have symptoms of cough (P = 0.03) and fever (P = 0.06) compared with patients who were not obese. Compared with normal weight patients, those who were overweight had 1.84-fold odds of developing severe COVID-19 (odds ratio [OR] 1.84, 95% CI 0.99-3.43, P = 0.05), while those who were obese were at 3.40-fold odds of developing severe disease (OR 3.40, 95% CI 1.40-2.86, P = 0.007), after adjusting for age, sex, epidemiological characteristics, days from disease onset to hospitalization, presence of hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, liver disease, and cancer, and drug used for treatment. Additionally, after similar adjustment, men who were obese versus those who were normal weight were at increased odds of developing severe COVID-19 (OR 5.66, 95% CI 1.80-17.75, P = 0.003).

Conclusions: In this study, obese patients had increased odds of progressing to severe COVID-19. As the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 may continue to spread worldwide, clinicians should pay close attention to obese patients, who should be carefully managed with prompt and aggressive treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Betacoronavirus*
  • Body Mass Index
  • COVID-19
  • China / epidemiology
  • Comorbidity
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Odds Ratio
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / physiopathology
  • Risk Factors
  • SARS-CoV-2