Obesity and Life Expectancy: More Weight, Less Life


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In a recent study conducted at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) and McGill University, researchers looked at the link between obesity and life expectancy.  They took statistics from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (from years 2003 to 2010) and found that very obese individuals could lose up to eight years of life, obese individuals could lose up to six years of life, and overweight individuals could lose up to three years of life.  They also found that healthy life-years lost were two to four times higher for overweight and obese individuals compared to those who had a healthy weight.  The researchers used a sample size of 4,000 people to pull results from.

This study is an observational study, but it was conducted with results that already occurred before the researchers began to collect the information.  Therefore there was no bias on the side of the people being studied.  However, the study was conducted with results from Americans, so the implications in other countries are questionable.  There are also many other third confiding variables that aren’t taken into account.  What if a majority of the people studied died in accidents and things completely unrelated to their weight or BMI?  There is also always the possibility of chance.  Correlation does not always equal causation so the relationship between BMI and years off of one’s life could be completely due to chance.

I believe there may be some truth to this study, but the only way we’ll be able to draw conclusive evidence is to keep replicating these studies to try and eliminate chance as much as possible.  This could have a lot to say about the future implications of this information.

Works Cited:

“Obesity May Shorten Life Expectancy up to Eight Years.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2014. <http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141205094845.htm>.


9 thoughts on “Obesity and Life Expectancy: More Weight, Less Life

  1. Alison B Mamtsis

    This is one of those topics that is always brought up, how being overweight is detrimental. However, i’m curious where the numbers in this study came from, how do you measure the exact number of years off of someone’s life? Also, although this blog brings up some good points it doesn’t get into the why. What exactly is happening in those who are overweight that is apparently decreasing their life span. http://share.kaiserpermanente.org/article/underweight-and-extremely-obese-die-earlier-than-people-of-normal-weight-study-finds/ this article shows that a healthy blood sugar, cholesterol, and heart rate are a few things that keep us healthy, and obese people are likely to be unbalanced in these areas. The article actually disputes some of the points made in your blog (their studies show that overweight people, as opposed to normal weight or obese, actually lived longer in their studies) and I think it’s definitely something you should check out!

  2. Rachel M Arndt

    This blog post seems very realistic. Although it is very hard to tell how reliable it is, it seems like with more weight there are more health complications in the human body. Of course technicalities of this are fuzzy as seen through this blog. Three years lost of life seems short to me, but I suppose I was expecting more!

  3. Abigail Charlotte Ventosa

    It’s hard not to hear about the risks of obesity in today’s society, so the idea that obese people live a shorter life is definitely not hard to believe; however, like you pointed out, this study doesn’t exactly prove it because of its lack of acknowledging many third variables that could come into play. Obesity does lead to many heart and other diseases though so it would make sense.

  4. Alex Victor Hatala

    People who are obese usually do not live as long as ones who are healthy, but is this just because they are obese, or is it because they are just plain unhealthy? That is what I would like to know. I have trouble agreeing with your findings because I think that you can’t base life expectancy on whether someone is obese or not. You have to look at their everyday habits and lifestyle. They could be doing something that makes them obese, such as eating unhealthy and fattening foods. These types of confounding variables affect the fact if whether just plain obesity affects one’s life expectancy. I will leave you with an article all about different factors that affect life expectancy. As you can see, there are countless things that affect how long you live.

  5. Jonathan Roger Marcus

    I knew that being obese is not healthy, but I didn’t think that it could take up to 8 years of someones life off. Seeing a statistic like that brings a scary truth into the world. The idea that being overweight can cut almost a decade off of a persons life. After reading this article I can see that the survey is reliable because the sample size was big enough to prove its point. No confounding variable could affect the outcome with a sample size so large. The United States needs to keep making an effort to stop obesity before it ends another persons life 10 years to early.

  6. Ines Anne Montfajon

    It is definitely true that obesity is relate to life expectancy. There’s clearly a correlation between these two elements. Here’s a study done about obesity and life expectancy which really proves that obesity leads to major health problem and to a higher risk of dying early thhttp://www.nih.gov/news/health/jul2014/nci-08.htm.
    Good post!

  7. Max Cohen

    It’s interesting to me that we can make such calculations. Being overweight takes up to three years off of my life? How is that calculated. It’s an interesting topic and probably eye-opening for a lot of people. Nobody wants to have a shorter life than they could have.

  8. ram5928

    It is hard to tell if this study is reliable (like you said) because there is not enough information on how the people passed away, how they lived their day to day life, if people had any other health issues, ect. It is common sense that if you are obese, you are living a very unhealthy lifestyle. Obesity causes a lot of complications on health and it would make sense that people who are obese have a shorter life. It is sad to think about, but it is most likely true.

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