An analysis led by a UC researcher
calculates that the number of obese adults over the age of 60 will rise
from 14.6 million in 2000 to 20.9 million in 2010--an increase of 43
"This trend is likely to have important
effects on the health, quality of life and cost of care of older
adults," the authors write. "The greater number of obese individuals
will likely further threaten the economic viability of the health care
financing and delivery system for the elderly."
The elderly already account for over a
third of all health care spending in the U.S. It is estimated that
lifetime medical costs for obese men and women are 42 to 56 percent
greater than for people with a normal body weight.
The analysis, led by David Arterburn, MD,
MPH, of UC's Institute for Health Policy and Health Services Research,
appears in the November 2004 issue of the Journal of the American
"This 43 percent increase in obese adults
over 60 is significantly higher than the estimated population
in-crease--approximately 23 percent--for that age group between 2000
and 2010," says Dr.Arterburn.
The researchers analyzed data from the
National Health Examination Survey I and four consecutive National
Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, which assessed the nation's
health from 1960 to 2000. Their results were compared with the goals of
Healthy People 2010, a prevention agenda of the U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services.
"We found that the numbers of obese
elderly individuals in the U.S. will continue to increase substantially
until at least the year 2010," says Dr. Arterburn. "Our estimates fall
dramatically short of the goals set by Healthy People 2010."
Dr. Arterburn's research forecasts that
between now and 2010, roughly 400,000 new, obese Medicare-eligible
elders will be added each year. Obesity in the elderly is clearly
as-sociated with an increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease,
hypertension, stroke, lipid abnormalities, osteoarthritis and some
Studies have shown associations between
obesity and poorer health in the elderly, including worse physical
functioning. Since physical function is closely linked to the need for
more intensive assistance, a greater proportion of elderly Americans in
the year 2010 may require long-term care, home health assistance and
personal equipment such as lifts and scooters.
"Given current trends in the U.S., the
problem of obesity in the elderly will continue to escalate unless
public health efforts to promote weight loss among middle-aged adults
are very successful," says Dr. Arterburn. "There is also a clear need
for new research on drugs and lifestyle changes that safely reduce body
weight in the elderly."