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Journal of Obesity
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 107989, 4 pages
Review Article

Obesity and Trends in Life Expectancy

1Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, The Alfred Centre, 99 Commercial Road, Melbourne, VIC 3004, Australia
2National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia
3Department of Medicine, University of Melbourne, Repatriation Hospital, Heidelberg, VIC 3084, Australia

Received 9 January 2012; Accepted 14 February 2012

Academic Editor: Abel Romero-Corral

Copyright © 2012 Helen L. Walls et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Background. Increasing levels of obesity over recent decades have been expected to lead to an epidemic of diabetes and a subsequent reduction in life expectancy, but instead all-cause and cardiovascular-specific mortality rates have decreased steadily in most developed countries and life expectancy has increased. Methods. This paper suggests several factors that may be masking the effects of obesity on life expectancy. Results. It is possible that health and life expectancy gains could be even greater if it was not for the increasing prevalence of extreme obesity. It is also possible that the principal impact of obesity is on disability-free life expectancy rather than on life expectancy itself. Conclusion. If the principal impact of obesity were through disability-free life expectancy rather than on life expectancy itself, this would have substantial implications for the health of individuals and the future burden on the health care system.