Study: Patients with four conditions make up majority of COVID-19 hospitalizations

February 25, 2021
Keith A. Reynolds

About two-thirds of COVID-19 hospitalizations across the country are tied to at least one of four different pre-existing conditions.

A large majority of adult COVID-19 hospitalizations across the U.S. can be attributed to one or more of a small number of pre-existing conditions.

According to a news release, a modeling study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association led by researchers at the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University estimated that, of the 906,849 total COVID-19 hospitalizations as of Nov. 18, 30 percent were attributable to obesity, 26 percent to hypertension, 21 percent to diabetes, and 12 percent to heart failure. In all, the model suggests that 64 percent, or 575,419 COVID-19 hospitalizations might have been prevented.

"While newly authorized COVID-19 vaccines will eventually reduce infections, we have a long way to go to get to that point," Dariush Mozaffarian, lead author and dean of the Friedman School, says in the release. “Our findings call for interventions to determine whether improving cardiometabolic health will reduce hospitalizations, morbidity, and health care strains from COVID-19. We know that changes in diet quality alone, even without weight loss, rapidly improve metabolic health within just six to eight weeks. It's crucial to test such lifestyle approaches for reducing severe COVID-19 infections, both for this pandemic and future pandemics likely to come."

The model estimates that age also resulted in disparities due to these conditions, such as with the about 8 percent of hospitalizations among patients 50 years old or younger attributable to diabetes, the disease accounts for about 29 percent of hospitalizations among those over 65. Obesity was equally detrimental across all age groups, the release says.

"Medical providers should educate patients who may be at risk for severe COVID-19 and consider promoting preventive lifestyle measures, such as improved dietary quality and physical activity, to improve overall cardiometabolic health," first author Meghan O'Hearn, a doctoral candidate at the Friedman School, says in the release. “It's also important for providers to be aware of the health disparities people with these conditions often face.”