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Obese older adults tend to have lower quality of life than those who are normal weight or overweight

Obese elderly people have a lower quality of life than their normal weight and overweight counterparts. The reduction in quality of life due to obesity is similar to that suffered by people with arthritis, stroke, ulcers, asthma, and anxiety, according to a study supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS09170). Nearly 3 million quality years are lost in this country each year from obesity and associated conditions, according to Robert M. Kaplan, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Diego, and his colleagues.

The researchers evaluated the relationship between body mass index (BMI; weight in kg/height in m2) and health-related quality of life (HRQOL) scores among 1,326 adults with a mean age of 72 years to estimate quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) lost to overweight, obesity, and associated conditions. They divided individuals into four groups based on BMI: less than 20 (underweight); 20 to 24.9 (normal); 25 to 29.9 (overweight, for example, a 5'5" woman who weighs 150 pounds or more or a 5'11" man who weighs 180 pounds or more); and greater than 30 (obese, for example, a 5'5" woman who weighs 180 pounds or more or a 5'5" man who weighs 215 pounds or more). They then correlated BMI with scores on the Quality of Well-Being (QWB) Scale, which has scores ranging from 0 for death to 1.0 for asymptomatic optimal functioning.

After controlling for age, sex, smoking history, and exercise, the normal BMI group had the highest QWB score (0.709), followed by the underweight (0.698), overweight (0.695), and obese (0.663) groups. The QWB score for the obese group was 0.046 lower than the normal weight group, suggesting a substantially lower quality of life. The quality of life of overweight people did not differ significantly from that of people in the normal BMI group.

See "Body mass index and quality of well-being in a community of older adults," by Erik J. Groessl, Ph.D., Dr. Kaplan, Elizabeth Barrett-Connor, M.D., and Theodore G. Ganiats, M.D., in the  American Journal of Preventive Medicine 26(2), pp. 126-129, 2004.

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