Aging, Obesity, and Mortality: Misplaced Concern about Obese Older People?

Roland J. Thorpe, Kenneth F. Ferraro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although there is widespread agreement that obesity (body mass index [BMI] ≥ 30 kg/m2) raises health risks, debate has ensued on whether obese older adults are also at greater risk. This study examines the effect of obesity on mortality for younger and older adults to determine whether the risk of obesity is lessened in later life. Data from a 20-year follow-up of a national sample of adults were used to examine the risk of obesity on mortality (N = 6,767). Cox models reveal that obesity raises mortality risk for adults of all ages, but this relationship is nearly twice as strong for persons younger than 50 years of age. Being slightly overweight in later life is associated with lower mortality risk, but obesity raises mortality risk, especially for ischemic heart disease. Obesity in middle age is a grave public health concern, but obesity in later life also merits attention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)108-129
Number of pages22
JournalResearch on aging
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Aging
  • Longitudinal study
  • Mortality
  • Obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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