Female bare feet with weight scale
Female bare feet with weight scale

COVID isolation’s unhealthy outcomes for obesity

COVID isolation has had a devastating impact for a vulnerable sector struggling with obesity, a new report has shown

The paper, written by doctors of the University of Texas and published in the journal Clinical Obesity, found that patients isolated at home suffered physical and psychological damage as a result of COVID-19.

"It may seem counterintuitive that an infectious disease such as COVID-19 should have a strong relationship with obesity, which is a chronic, non-communicable disease," the authors discussed.

"However, the stay-at-home orders plus efforts to isolate vulnerable populations and people with diagnosed or suspected COVID-19, have had serious effects on health behaviours and wellbeing for our sample of patients with obesity. Results here showed that COVID-19 is having a substantial impact on the health of patients with obesity regardless of infection status."

More than 50 per cent of Cairns residents are overweight or obese. Thinkstock
More than 50 per cent of Cairns residents are overweight or obese. Thinkstock

The results are on par with observations in Cape York but Cairns GP Dr Cameron McLeod said the pandemic may have polarised behaviours.

"I've heard mixed messages," Dr McLeod said.

"With Covid some have had more time to exercise so have successfully lost weight; I've had others who have been demotivated through the lockdown & the opposite has happened."

A health professional in Western Cape York said obesity was a "big problem" in the Northern Peninsular Area.

"People aren't getting out to exercise as much," the doctor, who declined to be identified, said.

"We have one big gym in the NPA and it has been closed.

"We have people with Body Mass Indexes of between 65 and 67, when a healthy BMI is between 20 and 25."

Federal health guidelines state that any BMI above 30 is considered obese.

"Nursing someone at that sort of weight is difficult," the doctor said.

"In the NPA, 20 to 25 per cent of people are at a Tier 1 risk if they had COVID; weight, diabetes heart disease, there a lot of comorbidities among the islanders."

He said the Cape York lockdown had made accessing specialist treatment for those suffering obesity difficult.

"That said, nationwide it is difficult to access surgery for obese people," he said.

ABS data from 2017-18 showed just over two thirds of adults in Queensland were overweight or obese.

Obesity is a leading risk factor for disease in Queensland
Obesity is a leading risk factor for disease in Queensland

The numbers were a nearly six per cent increase from 2007-08.

The Cancer Council of Queensland has reported that just over 51 per cent of adults in Cairns are overweight and obese,

Queensland Health figures showed obesity was the third leading risk factor for disease in the state, behind poor diet and smoking.

"About 15% of hospitalisations were associated with preventable risk factors," the Health of Queenslanders 2018 report found.

"In 2012-13, more than two-thirds of indigenous Queenslander adults were measured as overweight or obese.

"Indigenous Queenslanders were 39 per cent more likely to be obese and 25 per cent less likely to be healthy weight by measurement compared with non-Indigenous adults."

Queensland Health is still collating data on how COVID-19 had affected elective surgeries but has found that between January to May 2020, no obesity related procedures were impacted in the Cairns and Hinterland.



Originally published as COVID isolation's unhealthy outcomes for obesity