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Background AU Obesity: Pleaseconfirmthatallheadinglevelsarerepresentedcorrectly and rapid weight gain are established risk factors for : noncommunicable diseases and have emerged as independent risk factors for severe disease following Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) infection. Restrictions imposed to reduce COVID-19 transmission resulted in profound societal changes that impacted many health behaviours, including physical activity and nutrition, associated with rate of weight gain. We investigated which clinical and sociodemographic characteristics were associated with rapid weight gain and the greatest acceleration in rate of weight gain during the pandemic among adults registered with an English National Health Service (NHS) general practitioner (GP) during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods and findings With the approval of NHS England, we used the OpenSAFELY platform inside TPP to conduct an observational cohort study of routinely collected electronic healthcare records. We investigated changes in body mass index (BMI) values recorded in English primary care between March 2015 and March 2022. We extracted data on 17, 742, 365 adults aged 18 to 90 years old (50.1% female, 76.1% white British) registered with an English primary care practice. We estimated individual rates of weight gain before (δ-prepandemic) and during (δ-pandemic) the pandemic and identified individuals with rapid weight gain (>0.5 kg/m2/year) in each period. We also estimated the change in rate of weight gain between the prepandemic and pandemic period (δ-change = δ-pandemic-δ-prepandemic) and defined extreme accelerators as the 10% of individuals with the greatest increase in their rate of weight gain (δ-change ≥1.84 kg/m2/year) between these periods. We estimated associations with these outcomes using multivariable logistic regression adjusted for age, sex, index of multiple deprivation (IMD), and ethnicity. P-values were generated in regression models. The median BMI of our study population was 27.8 kg/m2, interquartile range (IQR) [24.3, 32.1] in 2019 (March 2019 to February 2020) and 28.0 kg/m2, IQR [24.4, 32.6] in 2021. Rapid pandemic weight gain was associated with sex, age, and IMD. Male sex (male versus female: adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 0.76, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) [0.76, 0.76], p < 0.001), older age (e.g., 50 to 59 years versus 18 to 29 years: aOR 0.60, 95% CI [0.60, 0.61], p < 0.001]); and living in less deprived areas (least-deprived-IMD-quintile versus most-deprived: aOR 0.77, 95% CI [0.77, 0.78] p < 0.001) reduced the odds of rapid weight gain. Compared to white British individuals, all other ethnicities had lower odds of rapid pandemic weight gain (e.g., Indian versus white British: aOR 0.69, 95% CI [0.68, 0.70], p < 0.001). Long-term conditions (LTCs) increased the odds, with mental health conditions having the greatest effect (e.g., depression (aOR 1.18, 95% CI [1.17, 1.18], p < 0.001)). Similar characteristics increased odds of extreme acceleration in the rate of weight gain between the prepandemic and pandemic periods. However, changes in healthcare activity during the pandemic may have introduced new bias to the data. Conclusions We found female sex, younger age, deprivation, white British ethnicity, and mental health conditions were associated with rapid pandemic weight gain and extreme acceleration in rate of weight gain between the prepandemic and pandemic periods. Our findings highlight the need to incorporate sociodemographic, physical, and mental health characteristics when formulating research, policies, and interventions targeting BMI in the period of post pandemic service restoration and in future pandemic planning.

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Journal article


PLoS Medicine

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