Abstract: Paper No.21

Association between Body Size and Mortality in Later Life

Christine L. Himes

June 2000

Abstract:  The rising prevalence of obesity in the United States has focused attention on the health consequences of excess weight. Obesity is linked to many of the major causes of death in the United States, including heart disease, some types of cancer, strokes, diabetes, and atherosclerosis. However, the effects of body size on mortality and health among the elderly are much less clear. This paper extends our current understanding of the relationship between body size and mortality by using two nationally representative, longitudinal datasets of individuals at older ages. These analyses indicate that obesity may not contribute greatly to increased mortality risks after age 70. In fact, obesity may be somewhat protective and lower the risk of death. At younger ages, however, the effects of obesity tend to operate in the opposite direction. Women especially appear to be at greater risk of death in their 50s and 60s if they are overweight.

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