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Keywords:

  • Diet;
  • exercise;
  • influenza;
  • influenza-like illness;
  • obesity

Please cite this paper as: Charland et al.(2012) Relationship between community prevalence of obesity and associated behavioral factors and community rates of influenza-related hospitalizations in the United States. Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses DOI: 10.1111/irv.12019.

Background  Findings from studies examining the association between obesity and acute respiratory infection are inconsistent. Few studies have assessed the relationship between obesity-related behavioral factors, such as diet and exercise, and risk of acute respiratory infection.

Objective  To determine whether community prevalence of obesity, low fruit/vegetable consumption, and physical inactivity are associated with influenza-related hospitalization rates.

Methods  Using data from 274 US counties, from 2002 to 2008, we regressed county influenza-related hospitalization rates on county prevalence of obesity (BMI ≥ 30), low fruit/vegetable consumption (<5 servings/day), and physical inactivity (<30 minutes/month recreational exercise), while adjusting for community-level confounders such as insurance coverage and the number of primary care physicians per 100 000 population.

Results  A 5% increase in obesity prevalence was associated with a 12% increase in influenza-related hospitalization rates [adjusted rate ratio (ARR) 1·12, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1·07, 1·17]. Similarly, a 5% increase in the prevalence of low fruit/vegetable consumption and physical inactivity was associated with an increase of 12% (ARR 1·12, 95% CI 1·08, 1·17) and 11% (ARR 1·11, 95% CI 1·07, 1·16), respectively. When all three variables were included in the same model, a 5% increase in prevalence of obesity, low fruit/vegetable consumption, and physical inactivity was associated with 6%, 8%, and 7% increases in influenza-related hospitalization rates, respectively.

Conclusions  Communities with a greater prevalence of obesity were more likely to have high influenza-related hospitalization rates. Similarly, less physically active populations, with lower fruit/vegetable consumption, tended to have higher influenza-related hospitalization rates, even after accounting for obesity.