This study examined whether body mass index (BMI) or change in BMI raises the risk of disability in adulthood. The connection between BMI and upper- and lower-body disability was examined among adult subjects from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
Those who completed the survey were individuals between ages 25 and 74 who did not live in institutions. Data from the survey and two follow-ups were used. The first survey was conducted from 1971 to 1975, followed by the second wave of data from 1982 to 1984 and the third wave in 1992, resulting in a 20-year observation period.
To determine disability, participants were asked questions from the Stanford Health Assessment Questionnaire Disability Index. Participants were asked a variety of questions about specific tasks such as the ability to lift groceries. The upper-body disability index used nine items and included questions on topics such as dressing, eating and gripping. The lower-body disability index used 10 items measuring task ability in hygiene and others.
Body mass index was defined as weight in kilograms/height in meters. Fewer than 4% of the subjects were underweight, 34% were overweight and almost 17% were obese. Health measures also were assessed and used as control variables.
The results showed that obesity (or a BMI of over 30) was associated with higher levels of upper- and especially lower-body disability. In persons who began the study with a BMI of 30 or more and became normal weight, disability was not reduced. Underweight persons (or a BMI less than 18.5) also meant higher disability in most cases.
In conclusion, disability risk was higher for obese persons but excess weight was not consistently associated with higher disability. #1009
Ferraro, K. F., Su, Y., Gretebeck, R. J., Black, D. R., & Badylak, S. F. (2002, May). Body mass index and disability in adulthood: A 20-year panel study. American Journal of Public Health 92(5), 834-840.