Questions under study: To examine the association between overweight/obesity and several self-reported chronic diseases, symptoms and disability measures.
Methods: Data from eleven European countries participating in the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe were used. 18,584 non-institutionalised individuals aged 50 years and over with BMI > or = 18.5 (kg/m2) were included. BMI was categorized into normal weight (BMI 18.5-24.9), overweight (BMI 25.0-29.9) and obesity (BMI > or = 30). Dependent variables were 13 diagnosed chronic conditions, 11 health complaints, subjective health and physical disability measures. For both genders, multiple logistic regressions were performed adjusting for age, socioeconomic status and behaviour risks.
Results: The odds ratios for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, arthritis, joint pain and swollen legs were significantly increased for overweight and obese adults. Compared to normal-weight individuals, the odds ratio (OR) for reporting > or = 2 chronic diseases was 2.4 (95% CI 1.9-2.9) for obese men and 2.7 (95% CI 2.2-3.1) for obese women. Overweight and obese women were more likely to report health symptoms. Obesity in men (OR 0.5, 95% CI 0.4-0.6), and overweight (OR 0.5, 95% CI 0.4-0.6) and obesity (OR 0.4, 95% CI 0.3-0.5) in women, were associated with poorer subjective health (i.e. a decreased risk of reporting excellent, very good or good subjective health). Disability outcomes were those showing the greatest differences in strength of association across BMI categories, and between genders. For example, the OR for any difficulty in walking 100 metres was non-significant at 0.8 for overweight men, at 1.9 (95% CI 1.3-2.7) for obese men, at 1.4 (95% CI 1.1-1.8) for overweight women, and at 3.5 (95% CI 2.6-4.7) for obese women.
Conclusions: These results highlight the impact of increased BMI on morbidity and disability. Healthcare stakeholders of the participating countries should be aware of the substantial burden that obesity places on the general health and autonomy of adults aged over 50.