Early Obesity Predicts Early Disability?

Given the strong relationship between excess weight and emotional, physical and economic health, it may be reasonable to pose the question whether obesity is a risk factor for early disability?

This question was just addressed by Martin Neovius and colleagues from the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden, who examined the association between obesity status in young adulthood and disability pension in Sweden (International Journal of Obesity).

The aim of this study was to investigate risk of future disability pension according to body mass index (BMI) in young adulthood. BMI was measured at military conscription (1969-1994) in 1,191,027 young male recruits. Date and cause of disability pension, death and emigration dates were collected from national registers (1971-2006).

During 28.4 million person-years, 60,024 subjects were granted disability pension. The hazard ratios (HRs) for overweight (1.36), moderate (1.87) and morbid obesity (3.04) were significantly elevated compared to normal weight individuals.

Excess disability was associated with problems related to circulatory, musculoskeletal, tumor, nervous system, and psychiatric disorders.

Based on these data, the authors suggest that productivity losses associated with adverse BMI in young adulthood appear to be large (a rather stark understatement, if I ever heard one).

Remember, this was a study on people whose BMI’s were high as far back as 1969. Given our present obesity epidemic in children and young adults, I wonder what disabilty rates will look like 20 years from now.

I don’t want to be the fella spreading doom and gloom all over, but it sure makes me wonder whether, despite all the talk, we are really doing all we can to prevent and treat obesity.

Edmonton, Alberta