Home / Resources / Articles / Obesity Does Not Increase Mortality Risk

Obesity Does Not Increase Mortality Risk

Jul 13, 2012

It is assumed that obese people are at a higher risk of mortality but a new study has found that obesity does not increase mortality risk…. 

Scientists from the University of California have found that obesity does not increase mortality risk. They found this while studying the health conditions of nearly 51,000 adults aged 18 to 90 years who participated in the Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys on health-care utilization and costs.


During the study, scientists calculated the Body Mass Index of 50,994 people. After measuring the body mass, the participants were sub-divided into various groups: underweight (BMI < 20), normal (BMI 20 to < 25), overweight (BMI 25 to < 30), obese (BMI 30 to 35) and severe obese (BMI > 35). Then they studied the mortality rate of the participants during a follow-up period of six years.

The study found that people who are obese or overweight had no increased risk of death when compared to normal weight people.

Anthony Jerant, professor of family and community medicine and lead author of the study stated that, "There is currently a widespread belief that any degree of overweight or obesity increases the risk of death, but our findings suggest this may not be the case." "In the six-year timeframe of our evaluation, we found that only severe obesity was associated with an increased risk of death, due to co-occurring diabetes and hypertension."

The study also revealed that people who are severely obese and had diabetes or hypertension are at a higher risk of mortality. Severely obese people were 1.26 times at higher risk of death than people in the normal weight group.

Jerant said, "Our results do not mean that being overweight or obese is not a threat to individual health." "These conditions can have a significant impact on quality of life, and for this reason alone weight loss may be advisable."

Jerant says that the six-year period of his investigation limits the ability to make assumptions about the link between unhealthy weight and the risk of death over a longer timeframe.

"We hope our findings will trigger studies that re-examine the relationship of being overweight or obese with long-term mortality," Jerant concluded.

Practice Pearls:
  • Doctors’ discussions with patients who are overweight or obese, not severely obese, should focus on the known negative effects of these conditions on mental and physical functioning, rather than on an increased short-term risk of death.
  • Doctors need to talk with severely obese patients who also have diabetes or hypertension about their increased short-term mortality risk and treatment, including weight loss.
  • Weight loss alone can have a significant impact on quality of life, and may be recommended.

The Journal of American Board of Family Medicine, July-August 2012 issue