Little research has addressed the heterogeneity and mortality risk in body mass index (BMI) trajectories among older populations. Applying latent class trajectory models to 9,538 adults aged 51 to 77 years from the US Health and Retirement Study (1992-2008), we defined 6 latent BMI trajectories: normal weight downward, normal weight upward, overweight stable, overweight obesity, class I obese upward, and class II/III obese upward. Using survival analysis, we found that people in the overweight stable trajectory had the highest survival rate, followed by those in the overweight obesity, normal weight upward, class I obese upward, normal weight downward, and class II/III obese upward trajectories. The results were robust after controlling for baseline demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, smoking status, limitations in activities of daily living, a wide range of chronic illnesses, and self-rated health. Further analysis suggested that BMI trajectories were more predictive of mortality risk than was static BMI status. Using attributable risk analysis, we found that approximately 7.2% of deaths after 51 years of age among the 1931-1941 birth cohort were due to class I and class II/III obese upward trajectories. This suggests that trajectories of increasing obesity past 51 years of age pose a substantive threat to future gains in life expectancy.
Keywords: United States; body mass index trajectories; heterogeneity; mortality; obesity.