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Being Overweight in Middle-Age Linked to Poor Health in Later Years

Posted: Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Reported in an article in the November 10 issue of The Archives of Internal Medicine.

According to information in the article, overweight and obesity are associated with several health problems and shorter life expectancy, but the effect of body mass index (BMI, calculated as weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters) at middle age on the quality of life in later years is not known. The article states that approximately 108 million adults in the United States are overweight or obese.

Martha L. Daviglus, M.D., Ph.D., of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, and colleagues investigated whether BMI at middle age is linked to health-related quality of life in older age.

The researchers studied 6,766 men and women who enrolled in the Chicago Heart Association Detection Project in Industry study between November 7, 1967 and January 8, 1973 and completed a 26-year follow up questionnaire in 1996 when they were 65 years or older. Participants were aged 36 to 64 years old, and were free of diabetes mellitus or myocardial infarction (heart attack) at the beginning of the study. The researchers calculated BMI (based on measured height and weight) at the beginning of the study, and the follow-up Health Status Questionnaire 12 (mailed 26 years after enrollment) asked several health related questions measuring physical, mental and social well-being. Higher scores on the questionnaire correlated with better health.

The researchers found that for both men and women, BMI had significant associations with all Health Status Questionnaire 12 scores. Scores were highest (best) in normal-weight individuals (BMI, 18.5 to 25) and decreased with higher BMI with the worst outcomes for obese participants (BMI of 30 or higher).

For women, 46.8 percent of participants who were of normal-weight at the beginning of the study reported excellent or very good health in later years compared with 37.9 percent of overweight women and 24.3 percent of obese women. For men, 53.8 percent of participants with normal weights at the beginning of the study reported excellent of very good health compared with 49.1 percent of overweight men, and 36.5 percent of obese men.

"In conclusion, the findings of our study demonstrate the adverse impact of high BMI in middle age on future health-related quality of life, including physical functioning, emotional health, and social functioning," write the authors. "With much of the US population middle-aged and older facing trends of increasing obesity and overweight, preventive measures are urgently required to lessen future individual and societal burden of the disease, disability cost of care, and impaired quality of life associated with excess weight," the researchers write.  

Source: Diabetes in

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