Over the course of last year, two related facts that many had already reasonably intuited became undeniable: Obesity is a coronavirus comorbidity, making people likelier to get it and to suffer seriously from it. And at the same time, lockdowns, which increased unhealthy habits overall, contributed to America’s already-extant obesity epidemic, particularly for children.
Now, even the CDC has caught on. According to a study published late last year, which surveyed juvenile (under age 18) cases of coronavirus that required hospitalization, “approximately two thirds of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 aged 12–17 years had obesity.” Moreover, “compared with patients without obesity, those with obesity required higher levels and longer duration of care.”
A specific breakdown of the numbers:
• About two-thirds of those surveyed had at least one underlying medical condition; obesity was the most prevalent one (at 32.4 percent), with 61.4 percent of patients between ages 12 and 17 being obese (and 60.5 percent of them were severely obese).
• 33.6 percent of patients between ages five and eleven were obese (of whom 60.4 percent were severely obese).
• Obese patients had longer median hospital stays (4 days) vs. those who weren’t (2 days).
• 41.1 percent of obese patients were admitted to the ICU, vs. 23.9 percent of those admitted who were not obese.
So, generally speaking, for kids — and really, for everyone — Covid is worse for the obese. The study adds some caveats. The data came from only six hospitals, and five of them were in the generally more obese South. But I’d add another caveat. In summarizing the study here, I have changed its language somewhat; its language refers to obesity with a sort of possessive, passive language: “have/had/has/having,” as opposed to using “obese” as an adjective to describe them. Perhaps this is medically correct nowadays, but recent developments in medicine make me wonder whether it is politically correct instead.
If we are to succeed in moving away from a myopic strategy for fighting disease that made many people less healthy and more vulnerable to the disease against which the measures were supposedly implemented, then we will need to defeat more than the idea that coronavirus restrictions that restrict physical activity are idiotic. We’ll also need to abandon the notion that obesity is just something that happens to people and that they are helpless to do anything about it. Maybe even the CDC will get around to endorsing that view someday.