Background: The relationship between obesity and increased risks of morbidity and mortality is well established. Less is known about the impact of obesity on functional health status and subjective well-being.
Methods: We examined health-related quality of life (HRQL), measured by the Medical Outcomes Study Short Form-36 Health Survey (SF-36), and clinical characteristics of 312 consecutive persons seeking outpatient treatment for obesity at a university-based weight management center. SF-36 scores were adjusted for sociodemographic factors and various comorbidities, including depression, to better estimate the effect of obesity on HRQL. Health-related quality of life of the obese patients was then compared with that of the general population and with a sample of patients who have other chronic medical conditions.
Results: Compared with general population norms, participants who had a mean body-mass index (BMI) of 38.1 reported significantly lower scores (i.e., more impairment) on all eight quality-of-life domains, especially bodily pain and vitality. The morbidly obese (mean BMI, 48.7) reported significantly worse physical, social, and role functioning, worse perceived general health, and greater bodily pain than did either the mildly (mean BMI, 29.2) or moderately to severely obese (mean BMI, 34.5). The obese also reported significantly greater disability due to bodily pain than did patients with other chronic medical conditions.
Conclusions: Obesity profoundly affects quality of life. Bodily pain is a prevalent problem among obese persons seeking weight loss and may be an important consideration in the treatment of this population.