Obesity is a risk factor for developing critical condition in COVID-19 patients: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Obes Rev. 2020 Oct;21(10):e13095. doi: 10.1111/obr.13095. Epub 2020 Jul 19.


The disease course of COVID-19 varies from asymptomatic infection to critical condition leading to mortality. Identification of prognostic factors is important for prevention and early treatment. We aimed to examine whether obesity is a risk factor for the critical condition in COVID-19 patients by performing a meta-analysis. The review protocol was registered onto PROSPERO (CRD42020185980). A systematic search was performed in five scientific databases between 1 January and 11 May 2020. After selection, 24 retrospective cohort studies were included in the qualitative and quantitative analyses. We calculated pooled odds ratios (OR) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) in meta-analysis. Obesity was a significant risk factor for intensive care unit (ICU) admission in a homogenous dataset (OR = 1.21, CI: 1.002-1.46; I2 = 0.0%) as well as for invasive mechanical ventilation (IMV) (OR = 2.05, CI: 1.16-3.64; I2 = 34.86%) in COVID-19. Comparing body mass index (BMI) classes with each other, we found that a higher BMI always carries a higher risk. Obesity may serve as a clinical predictor for adverse outcomes; therefore, the inclusion of BMI in prognostic scores and improvement of guidelines for the intensive care of patients with elevated BMI are highly recommended.

Keywords: COVID-19; intensive care; mechanical ventilation; obesity.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus*
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / complications*
  • Critical Illness
  • Humans
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / complications*
  • Risk Factors
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Severity of Illness Index