Body mass index and disability in adulthood: a 20-year panel study

Am J Public Health. 2002 May;92(5):834-40. doi: 10.2105/ajph.92.5.834.


Objectives: This study examined whether body mass index (BMI) or change in BMI raises the risk of disability in adulthood.

Methods: The relation between BMI and upper- and lower-body disability was examined among adult subjects from a national longitudinal survey (n = 6833). Tobit regression models were used to examine the effect of BMI on disability 10 and 20 years later.

Results: Obesity (BMI > or = 30) at baseline or becoming obese during the study 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 (BMI < 18.5) also manifested higher disability in most instances.

Conclusions: Disability risk was higher for obese persons, but overweight was not consistently associated with higher disability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / classification
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Body Weight / physiology*
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Disabled Persons / classification
  • Disabled Persons / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Middle Aged
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology