Body weight, health, and longevity

Ann Intern Med. 1984 Feb;100(2):285-95. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-100-2-285.


In the United States, the weight associated with the greatest longevity tends to below the average weight of the population under consideration, if such weights are not associated with a history of significant medical impairment. Overweight persons tend to die sooner than average-weight persons, especially those who are overweight at younger ages. The effect of being overweight on mortality is delayed and may not be seen in short-term studies. Cigarette smoking is a potential confounder of the relationship between obesity and mortality. Studies on body weight, morbidity, and mortality must be interpreted with careful attention to the definitions of obesity or relative weight used, preexisting morbid conditions, the length of follow-up, and confounders in the analysis. The terminology of body weight standards should be defined more precisely and cited appropriately. An appropriate database relating body weight by sex, age, and possibly frame size to morbidity and mortality should be developed to permit the preparation of reference tables for defining the desirable range of body weight based on morbidity and mortality statistics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Height
  • Body Weight*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health*
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Life
  • Life Expectancy
  • Longevity*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / mortality
  • Prospective Studies
  • Skinfold Thickness
  • Statistics as Topic
  • United States