Body mass index, change in body mass index, and survival in old and very old persons

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2013 Apr;61(4):512-8. doi: 10.1111/jgs.12158. Epub 2013 Mar 1.


Objectives: To examine how body mass index (BMI) and change in BMI are associated with mortality in old (70-79) and very old (≥80) individuals.

Design: Pooled data from three multidisciplinary prospective population-based studies: OCTO-twin, Gender, and NONA.

Setting: Sweden.

Participants: Eight hundred eighty-two individuals aged 70 to 95.

Measurements: BMI was calculated from measured height and weight as kg/m(2) . Information about survival status and time of death was obtained from the Swedish Civil Registration System.

Results: Mortality hazard was 20% lower for the overweight group than the normal-underweight group (relative risk (RR) = 0.80, P = .011), and the mortality hazard for the obese group did not differ significantly from that of the normal-underweight group (RR = 0.93, P = .603), independent of age, education, and multimorbidity. Furthermore, mortality hazard was 65% higher for the BMI loss group than for the BMI stable group (RR = 1.65, P < .001) and 53% higher for the BMI gain group than for the BMI stable group (RR = 1.53, P = .001). Age moderated the BMI change differences. That is, the higher mortality risks associated with BMI loss and gain were less severe in very old age.

Conclusion: Old persons who were overweight had a lower mortality risk than old persons who were of normal weight, even after controlling for weight change and multimorbidity. Persons who increased or decreased in BMI had a greater mortality risk than those who had a stable BMI, particularly those aged 70 to 79. This study lends further support to the belief that the World Health Organization guidelines for BMI are overly restrictive in old age.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Cause of Death*
  • Female
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Population Surveillance
  • Risk Factors
  • Sweden
  • Weight Gain*
  • Weight Loss