In 2022, the United States surpassed one million COVID-19 related deaths. Many of them had co-morbidities that are risk factors for many diseases, like old age, cancer, or respiratory issues.

Added into those risk factors were lifestyle diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes, and smoking, all of which are linked to poorer outcomes from COVID-19 infections. Those have all long been linked to negative health outcomes, which is why we have advocated for exercise, sensible diets, and giving up cigarettes as first lines of defense against many future problems.

The authors of a new paper on the risk factors of lifestyle diseases in COVID-19 infections label this a syndemic, which is the simultaneous occurrence of two prevalent health conditions or endemics. In this article, the authors compare geographic maps of the Unites States outlining COVID-19 deaths, several lifestyle behaviors, obesity, and chronic conditions. They say the pattern is evident and should be alarming for medical professionals.

Prevalence of self-reported physical inactivity among US adults, Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2017-2020. Source: Accessed May 24, 2022.

The authors believe that if lifestyle-related chronic disease incidence and prevalence had been lower leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic the outcomes would have been worse, but as always epidemiology claims are strictly exploratory. However, the evidence for preventing obesity and smoking is overwhelming.