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Most Covid patients admitted to critical care are obese

New statistics in England show that most patients admitted to critical care are obese, I take a look at the numbers.

There has been much discussion in recent weeks on the vaccination status of patients in critical care, I contributed to this in a recent blog. The latest estimates from ICNARC show that in November 2021, around 48% of patients with Covid-19 in ICU were unvaccinated. Remember, this group is a smaller proportion of the UK population and so the numbers in ICU are more than you would expect if vaccination made no difference. But what other factors can lead to a higher risk of admission to ICU?

Body Mass

Throughout the pandemic, various risk factors have become commonly known as giving a higher risk of serious illness if catching Covid-19. One of these is bodyweight and the ICNARC report provides information on the Body Mass Index of patients in ICU from 01 May 2021.

The NHS explains BMI is a measure that uses your height and weight to work out if your weight is healthy. An index of 30 and over is obese, and this group accounts for 50.1% of ICU patients, a slight majority. Patients with an index between 25 and 29.9 are overweight, and we find that 4 in 5 patients in ICU with Covid-19 in England are overweight or obese.

A significant proportion of the population of England are overweight and so is it surprising that most patients in ICU are overweight? Well, for those who are not obese (BMI under 30), there are fewer patients in ICU relative to the population. However, patients who are obese overrepresent the Covid-19 ICU population. More starkly, the percentage of Covid-19 patients in the severely obese category (BMI 40+) is over 4 times what you would expect if ICU patients represented the general population.


The rollout of Covid-19 vaccines has created a divided society with a tribal group who want harsh sanctions imposed on people who choose not to have a vaccine, as illustrated in this post by Karren Brady. I have had two vaccines and believe in a society where each individual has the freedom to choose what they put in their body. The figures from ICNARC suggest obese people take up as much resources in ICU as those unvaccinated (we don’t have the figures who are in both groups). Data from NHS Digital suggests over 1 million hospital admissions in England are related to obesity.

Obesity is generally caused by eating too much and moving too little, according to the NHS. If we follow the logic of mandatory vaccination, should we also mandate how much a person eats or how much they move? I think we set ourselves down a dangerous path on either.

Oh, and before someone says you cannot infect someone with obesity, remember the Covid-19 vaccine is primarily there to protect you. It is clear from real-world data that those vaccinated can still catch and pass on the virus to others.

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