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Obesity and unhealthy lifestyle blamed for high Czech COVID death toll


Prague, Czech Republic – Widespread obesity is one of the most important factors explaining the high COVID-19 death toll in the Czech Republic, Deutsche Welle highlighted in a report yesterday.

Czech Republic’s death toll per capita is most severe in the world

Relatively sparred by the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic in the spring last year, the Czech Republic became, after summer, one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe, recording among the world’s highest infection and deaths rates from the virus.

According to the Czech Ministry of Health, over 28,000 people have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, but experts note that the real figure could be at least a third higher. According to Our World in Data, the Czech Republic had the single highest cumulative death rate per capita in the world (see graph below)

Experts have since pointed to a myriad of factors to explain how the pandemic spiraled out of control in a country initially praised for its swift and decisive response to the crisis in the first half of 2020.

A hazardous reopening and chaotic management of the pandemic by the embattled government of Prime Minister Andrej Babis, a weak enforcement of regulations among the population, along with an insufficient system of tracking and testing have all been cited among the top reasons to account for the Czech Republic’s high death rate.

Source: Our World in Data

Widespread obesity a significant risk factor for COVID-19

One of the top risk factors has long been overlooked, however: with 71% of men and 57% of women considered overweight, the Czech Republic’s obesity rate is one of the highest in Europe.

The Czech Republic is also among the leading EU nations in terms of alcohol, marijuana and cigarettes consumption.

Both the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Obesity Federation (WOF) have highlighted the “clear and compelling” correlation between obesity and mortality rates from COVID-19. A number of studies also pointed to a higher risk of contracting the virus in the first place for overweight people.

The impact of Czechs’ unhealthy lifestyle is evident when it comes to the country’s death toll: “80% of COVID patients admitted to [Czech] hospital are obese or overweight,” Ladislav Dusek, head of the Institute of Health Information and Statistics in the Czech Republic, told Deutsche Welle.

“Every kilo counts in the fight against COVID-19”

Although the correlation between obesity and the risk of dying from COVID-19 has been known since the first months of the pandemic, repeated lockdowns, widespread restrictions and the general sense of anguish and uncertainty have led people to put on more weight and consume on average more alcohol, experts have also noted.

“Every kilo counts in the fight against COVID-19,” concludes Deutsche Welle, pointing to the recent easing of restrictions and the possibility for people to exercise outdoors as a step in the right direction.

Main photo credit: Petr Zewlakk Vrabec

Headed by Kafkadesk's chief-editor Jules Eisenchteter, our Prague office gathers over half a dozen reporters, editors and contributors, as well as our social media team. It covers everything Czech and Slovak-related, and oversees operations from our other Central European desks in Krakow and Budapest.