Friday, August 22, 2008

A Ticking Time Bomb For Health Services: Obesity In The Elderly

“Research carried out at the Peninsula Medical School in the South West of England has discovered that obesity in later life does not make a substantial difference to risks of death among older people but that it is a major contributor to increased disability in later life - creating a ticking time bomb for health services in developed countries. The research is published in the August 2008 edition of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The Peninsula Medical School research team worked with data on just under 4,000 participants in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) aged 65 and older and living in the community. Each participant had their weight and height measured and their BMI (body mass index) calculated and they were followed up for five years. The researchers compared people with BMI of 20 to 24.9 (i.e. those of recommended weight), with those who had a BMI of 25 to 29.9 (‘overweight’), 30 to 34.9 (‘obese’), or 35 or over (‘severely obese’). The results showed that the higher an older person's BMI, the more likely he or she was to develop mobility problems (measured using a standard performance test) or to develop difficulty carrying out everyday tasks. The results also showed that, in older people, the link between higher BMI and the risk of death is weak - only severely obese older men seemed to run this increased risk. He [Dr Iain Lang, who led the research from the Peninsula Medical School] added: ‘This research is important because a growing proportion of the population is aged 65 or over, and more and more of these older people are overweight. In fact, in most developed countries middle-aged and elderly adults are more likely to be obese than people in any other age group. These findings have huge significance for the delivery of health care, both now and in the future. Increasing numbers of older people and higher levels of overweight and obesity will lead to a greater burden of disability and ill health and place an immense strain on health and social services. The issue is likely to get worse as time goes on and represents a ticking time bomb for health services around the world.’”

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