Context: A comprehensive understanding of the association between body mass index (BMI) and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is still lacking.
Objective: To investigate associations between BMI and risk of COVID-19 diagnosis, hospitalization with COVID-19, and death after a COVID-19 diagnosis or hospitalization (subsequent death), accounting for potential effect modification by age and sex.
Design: Population-based cohort study.
Setting: Primary care records covering >80% of the Catalan population, linked to regionwide testing, hospital, and mortality records from March to May 2020.
Participants: Adults (≥18 years) with at least 1 measurement of weight and height.
Main outcome measures: Hazard ratios (HR) for each outcome.
Results: We included 2 524 926 participants. After 67 days of follow-up, 57 443 individuals were diagnosed with COVID-19, 10 862 were hospitalized with COVID-19, and 2467 had a subsequent death. BMI was positively associated with being diagnosed and hospitalized with COVID-19. Compared to a BMI of 22 kg/m2, the HR (95% CI) of a BMI of 31 kg/m2 was 1.22 (1.19-1.24) for diagnosis and 1.88 (1.75-2.03) and 2.01 (1.86-2.18) for hospitalization without and with a prior outpatient diagnosis, respectively. The association between BMI and subsequent death was J-shaped, with a modestly higher risk of death among individuals with BMIs ≤ 19 kg/m2 and a more pronounced increasing risk for BMIs ≥ 40 kg/m2. The increase in risk for COVID-19 outcomes was particularly pronounced among younger patients.
Conclusions: There is a monotonic association between BMI and COVID-19 diagnosis and hospitalization risks but a J-shaped relationship with mortality. More research is needed to unravel the mechanisms underlying these relationships.
Keywords: SARS-CoV-2; adiposity; electronic health records; fatality; hospitalization; obesity.
© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Endocrine Society.