Examining the Relationships between Excess Body Weight, Health and Disability


The recent rise in the prevalence of obesity and overweight in the overall U.S. population has raised many concerns about the future. In addition to concerns about the medical costs of treating obesity-related illness, an apparent correlation between obesity and disability has led to concern that the recent declines in rates of disability among the elderly may cease or reverse. In this report, the authors explore the relationship between excess weight and obesity in a series of cross sectional and longitudinal analyses in an attempt to evaluate these concerns. Using data from the 1998-2004 waves of the Health and Retirement Study, the authors find evidence that the risks of developing difficulties with activities of daily living (ADLs) does increase with the prevalence of obesity, but the effects appear to be less dramatic than the effects on the limitations in physical functioning, which can be precursors of ADL disability. Further, the authors find only a weak relationship between excess weight and the onset of difficulties with instrumental ADLs. [45 PDF pages]

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