Objective: Our aim was to compare the effect of central obesity (measured by waist-to-height ratio, WHtR) and total obesity (measured by body mass index, BMI) on life expectancy expressed as years of life lost (YLL), using data on British adults.
Methods: A Cox proportional hazards model was applied to data from the prospective Health and Lifestyle Survey (HALS) and the cross sectional Health Survey for England (HSE). The number of years of life lost (YLL) at three ages (30, 50, 70 years) was found by comparing the life expectancies of obese lives with those of lives at optimum levels of BMI and WHtR.
Results: Mortality risk associated with BMI in the British HALS survey was similar to that found in US studies. However, WHtR was a better predictor of mortality risk. For the first time, YLL have been quantified for different values of WHtR. This has been done for both sexes separately and for three representative ages.
Conclusion: This study supports the simple message "Keep your waist circumference to less than half your height". The use of WHtR in public health screening, with appropriate action, could help add years to life.