The Changing Relationship of Obesity and Disability


Researchers investigated how the relationship between obesity and disability might have changed over time. Data analyzed were from 9,928 adults at least 60 years of age who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) during 1988–1994 (time 1) and 1999–2004 (time 2). Functional limitations and limitations in activities of daily living (ADLs) were the outcomes of interest. Health and demographic factors were addressed in regard to the relationship between obesity and disability over time.

Key Findings:

  • Functional impairment rose from a prevalence rate of 36.8 percent for obese individuals at time 1 to 42.2 percent at time 2 for obese individuals. There was no difference in rates of limitations in ADLs for obese individuals from time 1 to time 2.
  • The odds of being functionally impaired were 1.78 times higher for obese individuals as compared to nonobese individuals at time 1. These odds rose to 2.75 at time 2 due to an increase of 43 percent in odds of functional impairment of obese individuals between time 1 and 2.
  • The odds for limitations in ADLs did not significantly differ between nonobese and obese individuals at time 1, but rose to a level of 2.05 at time 2 due to a decrease of 34 percent in odds of ADL limitation for normal weight individuals at time 2.