Study: Obesity in elderly affects disability, not life expectancy

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Obese people who reach the age of 70 have similar life expectancies as their non-obese counterparts, but they have a much greater chance of being disabled for the remainder of their lives, according to a new study.

Researchers analyzed statistical information on more than 7,000 seniors and found that at 70 years old, the men could expect to live an additional 12.3 years if they were non-obese and 12.4 years if they were obese. Women age 70 could expect to live 15.3 years if they were non-obese and 15.5 years if they were obese, according to Sandra Reynolds of the University of South Florida School of Aging Studies, the lead author of the study.

However, there was a difference when it came to ability levels. Non-obese men could expect to live 9.8 active years and 2.5 disabled years beyond the age of 70, while obese men could only expect to live 8.4 active years and 4.0 years with disability. In the same sample, women averaged 10.5 active years and 4.8 disabled years if they were non-obese and 8.1 active years and 7.4 disabled years if they were obese.

Results of the study appear in the August issue of The Gerontologist.