Obesity, Life Expectancy and Disability?
While our life expectancy has been increasing for decades, to what extent disability-free life expectancy will increase remains uncertain. Already, the obesity epidemic has resulted in a doubling of the prevalence of obesity in Western countries.
Earlier studies found that both obesity and overweight collectively were associated with an increase in disability and premature death. However, the impact of higher BMI’s on mortality has apparently diminished over time.
A recent study published in the journal, Obesity, assessed how much of the overweight status (obesity and overweight collectively) is associated with both longevity and disability in Western Europe . The study included self-report health and socioeconomic information collected from 66,331 participants from nine different countries.
Obesity and Life Expectancy?
Somewhat surprisingly, the study found that overweight people can actually expect to live slightly longer than normal weight individuals. However, overweight and obese people can also expect to live 3.6 and 6.1 more years respectively with disability.
As for smoking, the study found that smokers had a lower life expectancy but an unchanged amount of life with disability.
From the Study Authors:
“Overweight people had higher LE (life expectancy) than people with normal-weight and obesity. Among women, overweight and obese nonsmokers expect 3.6 and 6.1 more years of LwD (life with disability) than normal weight persons, respectively. In contrast, daily smokers expect lower LE but a similar LwD. The same patterns were observed among people with high education and those with low education.”
In a Nutshell:
“To conclude, daily smoking is associated with mortality more than with disability, whereas obesity is associated with disability more than with mortality. The findings suggest that further tobacco control would contribute to increasing LE, while tackling the obesity epidemic is necessary to prevent an expansion of disability.”
- Majer IM, Nusselder WJ, Mackenbach JP, Kunst AE. Life Expectancy and Life Expectancy With Disability of Normal Weight, Overweight, and Obese Smokers and Nonsmokers in Europe. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2011 Mar 17. [Epub ahead of print]