COVID-19, body mass index and cholesterol: an ecological study using global data

M. Sarmadi*, S.M. Ahmadi-Soleimani*, M. Fararouei, M. Dianatinasab

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is now globally considered a serious economic, social and health threat. A wide range of health related factors including Body Mass Index (BMI) is reported to be associated with the disease. In the present study, we analyzed global databases to assess the correlation of BMI and cholesterol with the risk of COVID-19.Methods: In this ecological study, we used age-standardized BMI and cholesterol levels as well as the incidence and mortality ratio of COVID-19 at the national-levels obtained from the publicly available databases such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and NCD Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC). Bivariate correlation analysis was applied to assess the correlations between the study variables. Mean differences (standard deviation: SD) of BMI and cholesterol levels of different groups were tested using independent sample t-test or Mann-Whitney rank test as appropriate. Multivariable linear regression analysis was performed to identify variables affecting the incidence and mortality ratio of COVID-19.Results: Incidence and mortality ratio of COVID-19 were significantly higher in developed (29,639.85 +/- 20,210.79 for cases and 503.24 +/- 414.65 for deaths) rather than developing (8153.76 +/- 11,626.36 for cases and 169.95 +/- 265.78 for deaths) countries (P < 0.01). Results indicated that the correlations of BMI and cholesterol level with COVID-19 are stronger in countries with younger population. In general, the BMI and cholesterol level were positively correlated with COVID-19 incidence ratio (beta = 2396.81 and beta = 30,932.80, p < 0.01, respectively) and mortality ratio (beta = 38.18 and beta = 417.52, p < 0.05, respectively) after adjusting for socioeconomic and demographic factors.Conclusion: Countries with higher BMI or cholesterol at aggregate levels had a higher ratios of COVID-19 incidence and mortality. The aggregated level of cholesterol and BMI are important risk factors for COVID-19 major outcomes, especially in developing countries with younger populations. We recommend monitoring and promotion of health indicices to better prevent morbidity and mortality of COVID-19.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1712
Number of pages14
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sept 2021


  • COVID-19
  • mortality
  • BMI
  • Obesity
  • Cholesterol
  • Risk factors
  • RISK


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