Independent associations between weight status and disability in adults: Results from the health survey for England

Jane Lidstone, Louisa Ells, Paul Finn, Vicki Whittaker, John Wilkinson, Carolyn Summerbell

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    26 Citations (Scopus)


    Objectives: While direct links between obesity and some illnesses are well-established, there is a relative paucity of research on associations between obesity and disabilities. The aim of this study was to test for significant associations between overweight and obesity and the presence of a wide range of disabling conditions in adults, controlling for sex, age, education, social class, income, cigarette smoking status and alcohol consumption. Study design: Data were extracted from the Health Survey for England (2001); a cross-sectional survey of the community-dwelling population. In total, 8613 adult participants were included in the analysis. Methods: Multivariate logistic regression was employed to test whether the odds of having a range of disabling conditions are higher in the overweight and obese populations compared with those in the ideal weight range. Results: The risk of nearly all disabling conditions tested was elevated in the obese and morbidly obese groups. Of great importance for public health, the risks of musculoskeletal illness, arthritis and rheumatism, and personal care disability were significantly elevated, even in those in the overweight category (currently about half of the adult population living in the UK). Conclusions: Obesity is independently associated with a range of disabling conditions in adults. The present study highlights the need for further research into the mechanisms by which these associations occur.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)412-417
    Number of pages6
    JournalPublic Health
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2006


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