Lockdown Effects of Obesity During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Our research suggests that we have to look beyond the direct effect of COVID-19 and mortality, and need to consider the medium- and long-term effects on non-COVID diseases such as diabetes.

WeightControl.com Interview with:
Associate Professor in Clinical Data Science and Honorary Consultant Cardiologist
Institute of Health Informatics, University College London
 Adjunct Associate Professor in Public Health
Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, Kochi, India

WeightControl.com:  What is the background for this study?

Response: Severe obesity was on the UK government’s list of moderate risk conditions for severe COVID-19 on 16 March 2020(1), with increased importance for social distancing and other measures.  Obesity is in itself a risk factor for chronic diseases, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which themselves increase the risk of severe COVID-19. We aimed to project the number of excess deaths in severely obese individuals. In addition, the lockdown can lead to prolonged periods of inactivity and weight gain, which could lead to increased burden of chronic diseases, particularly diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. To provide these projections, we used national electronic health records representative of the UK population.

WeightControl.com: What are the main findings?

Response: Key findings

1.       In severely obese individuals, we estimated direct impact (in infected individuals) of 240–479 excess deaths in England and indirect effect (in uninfected individuals due to strain on the system due to the pandemic) of 383–767 excess deaths over 1 year, assuming 10% infection rate.

2.       Between 98k and 434k individuals may develop high-risk conditions for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) mortality during a 3-month lockdown due to change in body mass index and physical activity.


WeightControl.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Our research suggests that we have to look beyond the direct effect of COVID-19 and mortality, and need to consider the medium- and long-term effects on non-COVID diseases such as diabetes. During lockdowns, physical activity and weight management must be prioritised, particularly people who are overweight and obese.

WeightControl.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: First, we need to use national data to test our models and projections to see if the lockdown periods in the UK have led to increased burden of chronic diseases over the last year. Second, future research should compare chronic disease burden and the impact of obesity across countries during the pandemic, to understand which interventions reduce obesity and its effects on other diseases.

WeightControl.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: Suppressing the infection rate in the population (the so-called “zero-COVID” approach) is the best way to minimise the acute and chronic, and the direct and indirect effects No conflicts of interest to report.


M. Katsoulis, L. Pasea, A.G. Lai, R.J.B. Dobson, S. Denaxas, H. Hemingway, A. Banerjee,
Obesity during the COVID-19 pandemic: both cause of high risk and potential effect of lockdown? A population-based electronic health record study,
Public Health, Volume 191, 2021,nPages 41-47, ISSN 0033-3506,


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Last Updated on January 28, 2021 by weightcontrol