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Obesity accounts for 18% of deaths among Black and White Americans between the ages of 40 and 85
Tuesday, August 20, 2013 4:10 pm Email this article
Obesity accounted for 18 percent of deaths among Black and White Americans between the ages of 40 and 85 according to Ryan Masters, PhD, and others who conducted research as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.
This finding challenges the prevailing wisdom among scientists, which is that only about 5% of deaths are due to obesity.
This finding shows that obesity is responsible for about 3.6 times more deaths than previously thought.
Obesity Consequences Worse Than Believed
Obesity has dramatically worse health consequences than some recent reports have said
“Obesity has dramatically worse health consequences than some recent reports have led us to believe,” says first author Ryan Masters, PhD, who conducted the research as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.
“We expect that obesity will be responsible for an increasing share of deaths in the United States and perhaps even lead to declines in U.S. life expectancy.”
Past research lumped everyone together, but it was WRONG to do this
“Past research in this area lumped together all Americans, but obesity prevalence and its effect on mortality differ substantially based on your race or ethnicity, how old you are, and when you were born,” says Dr. Masters.
“It’s important for policy-makers to understand that different groups experience obesity in different ways.”
The looked at National Death Index for the years 1986 to 2006
The researchers analyzed 19 waves of the National Health Interview Survey linked to individual mortality records in the National Death Index for the years 1986 to 2006, when the most recent data are available.
They focused on ages 40 to 85 in order to exclude accidental deaths, homicides, and congenital conditions that are the leading causes of death for younger people.
The study builds on earlier research by Dr. Masters that found, contrary to conventional wisdom, that risk for death from obesity increases with age.
The new study is also influenced by previous work by co-authors Eric Reither, PhD, associate professor at Utah State University, and Claire Yang, PhD, associate professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, which showed significant cohort differences in U.S. obesity rates.
People born in 1915-1919
People born in 1915-1919, obesity killed 3.5%
Among people who were born between 1915 and 1919, grade one obesity, that is having a body mass index of 30 to 34.9, accounted for about 3.5% of deaths.
People born in 1925-1929
People born in 1925-1929, obesity killed 5%
For those born 10 years later, from 1925 to 1929, it accounted for about 5% of deaths.
People born in 1935-1939
People born in 1935-1939, obesity killed 7%
For those born 10 years later than this, from 1935 to 1939, it accounted for about 7% of deaths.
But among those 40 to 85, it accounts for 18% of deaths.
Masters RK, Reither EN, Powers DA, Yang YC, Burger AE, and Link BG. The Impact of Obesity on US Mortality Levels: The Importance of Age and Cohort Factors in Population Estimates
Ryan K. Masters, Eric N. Reither, Daniel A. Powers, Y. Claire Yang, Andrew E. Burger, and Bruce G. Link. (2013). The Impact of Obesity on US Mortality Levels: The Importance of Age and Cohort Factors in Population Estimates. American Journal of Public Health. e-View Ahead of Print. American Journal of Public Health, 2013 Aug 15; e-View Ahead of Print, http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2013.301379.
Author’s Contact Info
Ryan K. Masters
University of Colorado at Boulder
Department of Sociology
UCB 327 Ketchum 214
Boulder, CO 80309 USA
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