Increasing Obesity Rates and Disability Trends

If It Continues at Its Current Rate, Rising Obesity Could Wipe Out Recent Improvements in Disability Among Older Americans

Published in: Health Affairs, v. 23, no. 2, Mar./Apr. 2004, p. 199-205

Posted on on January 01, 2004

by Roland Sturm, Jeanne S. Ringel, Tatiana Andreyeva

Read More

Access further information on this document at

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

Are older Americans becoming more or less disabled? Unhealthy body weight has increased dramatically, but other data show that disability rates have declined. The authors use data from the Health and Retirement Study to estimate the association between obesity and disability, and they combine it with trend estimates of obesity rates from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey. If current trends in obesity continue, disability rate will increase by 1 percent per year more in the 50-69 age group than if there were no further weight gain.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.