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Obesity Rises as Quality of Life Declines in US

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

The health burden associated with obesity has continued to soar since 1993 according to researchers analyzing the impact and prevalence of obesity in the US. Findings reveal that Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) lost to U.S. from obesity doubled from 1993 to 2008. As obesity rises, quality of life declines across the US.

Until now researchers have been unable to measure the impact on Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) resulting from obesity. Using information from the 1993-2008 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, the largest ongoing state-based health survey of U.S. adults, researchers Haomiao Jia, PhD, Columbia University, and Erica I. Lubetkin, MD, MPH, The City College of New York uncovered the health burden associated with obesity across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, in both genders and among all ethnic groups.

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The findings show an 89.9 percent increase in obesity in the US from 1993 to 2008. Black women had the most QALYs lost due to obesity in 2008, followed by black men and then white women and men.

Why QALYs Matters for Obesity

Dr. Lubetkin explains, "The ability to collect data at the state and local levels is essential for designing and implementing interventions, such as promoting physical activity, that target the relevant at-risk populations. Although the prevalence of obesity has been well documented in the general population, less is known about the impact on QALYs both in the general population and at the state and local levels….Our analysis enables the impact of obesity on morbidity and mortality to be examined using a single value to measure the Healthy People 2020 objectives and goals at the national, state, and local levels and for population subgroups."

The researchers say the analysis of Quality-Adjusted Life Years lost from morbidity and mortality related to obesity could be useful for the Healthy People 2020 toolbox. Finding ways to fight obesity and measuring the outcomes can help determine the impact of evidence-based interventions. Decining quality of life and the percentage of the population reporting no leisure-time physical activity was found to correlate with rising rates of obesity at a state level.