Few studies have focused on the relationship between the trajectories of long-term changes in body mass index (BMI; weight (kg)/height (m)(2)) and all-cause mortality in old age, particularly in non-Western populations. We evaluated this association by applying group-based mixture models to data derived from the National Survey of the Japanese Elderly, which included 4,869 adults aged 60 or more years, with up to 7 repeated observations between 1987 and 2006. Four distinct BMI trajectories were identified: "low-normal weight, decreasing" (baseline BMI = 18.7; 23.8% of sample); "mid-normal weight, decreasing" (baseline BMI = 21.9; 44.6% of sample); "high-normal weight, decreasing" (baseline BMI = 24.8; 26.5% of sample); and "overweight, stable" (baseline BMI = 28.7; 5.2% of sample). Survival analysis with an average follow-up of 13.8 years showed that trajectories of higher BMI were associated with lower mortality. In particular, relative to those with a mid-normal weight, decreasing BMI trajectory, those with an overweight, stable BMI trajectory had the lowest mortality, and those with a low-normal, decreasing BMI trajectory had the highest mortality. In sharp contrast with prior observations from Western populations, BMI changes lie primarily within the normal-weight range, and virtually no older Japanese are obese. The association between BMI trajectories and mortality varies according to the distribution of BMI within the population.
Keywords: Japan; body mass index; mortality; older adults; trajectories.
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