Increasing body mass index lowers quality of life in obese individuals

Research Activities, February 2012, No. 378

As the rate of obesity increases in the United States, so too does its impact on a person's health-related quality-of-life (HRQoL), suggests a new study. Although some past studies have explored the impact of obesity on two to three measures of HRQoL, this was the first study to investigate nine HRQoL measures. It assessed how HRQoL varied by body mass index (BMI) in gender and racial subgroups. It found that six HRQoL indexes and two of three health status summary measures detected significantly worse quality of life in obese individuals compared to those with normal BMIs.

For this study, 3,710 adults were given commonly used HRQoL questionnaires. Following the telephone interview, they also received another questionnaire, the Health and Activities Limitations Index (HALex). The adults were classified by BMI as being of normal weight, overweight, or obese. Within the sample, 29 percent of men and 27 percent of women were considered obese. There were twice as many blacks in the obese group (42 percent) than in the normal BMI group (21 percent).

Significant differences were found on all HRQoL measures (except for the mental component score) for overweight and obese individuals compared to normal-weight individuals. Overall, a higher BMI was associated with worse physical health aspects but not worse mental health. However, women had both worse mental and physical health as their BMI increased, and blacks had higher HRQoL when they were overweight than when they were normal weight or obese. The study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (T32 HS00046).

See "Race and gender associations between obesity and nine health-related quality-of-life measures," by Tanya G.K. Bentley, Ph.D., Mari Palta, Ph.D., Adam J. Paulsen, M.S., and others in the Quality of Life Research 20, pp. 665-674, 2011.

Page last reviewed February 2012
Internet Citation: Increasing body mass index lowers quality of life in obese individuals: Research Activities, February 2012, No. 378. February 2012. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.