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 [1].  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.”


  1. 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]

5 thoughts on “Obesity, Life Expectancy and Disability?

  • April 22, 2011 at 3:30 am

    Great post.I never thought of such relation between smoking and obesity. Nowadays most of the people are overweight due to change in lifestyle.We all should have to take care about that.

  • April 10, 2011 at 2:48 am

    Interesting post and you have pointed out some surprising facts. But overall,these days we can find lots of people being overweight and specially the kids. It is all because of the wrong eating habits.

  • March 22, 2011 at 1:50 am

    Obesity is indeed one of the serious problems these days. According to the survey reports there were between 112,000 and 380,000 excess deaths from obesity-related disease in the United States during the year 2000.

  • March 21, 2011 at 7:18 am

    Excellent post and I must say you have done a good research on this topic. Thanks for posting such an informative post. I think all the smokers should know the fact that they have a lower life expectancy.It is high time that people switch on to healthy lifestyle.

  • March 20, 2011 at 10:16 am

    It’s amazing how being over-weight is now the accepted norm in our country. When I was a child, seeing someone who was obese was rare and now seeing someone who is physically fit is a rarity.


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