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Journal of Obesity
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 894894, 13 pages
Research Article

Comparing Years of Healthy Life, Measured in 16 Ways, for Normal Weight and Overweight Older Adults

1Department of Biostatistics, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA
2Department of Health Services, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA
3Department of Psychiatry, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA
4Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Center, Puget Sound VA Medical Center, Seattle, WA 98195, USA
5Group Health Research Institute, Seattle, WA 98195, USA
6Department of Epidemiology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA
7Department of Epidemiology and Center for Aging and Population Research, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA

Received 14 November 2011; Revised 17 February 2012; Accepted 7 March 2012

Academic Editor: Francisco Lopez-Jimenez

Copyright © 2012 Paula Diehr 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.


Introduction. The traditional definitions of overweight and obesity are not age specific, even though the relationship of weight to mortality is different for older adults. Effects of adiposity on aspects of health beside mortality have not been well investigated. Methods. We calculated the number of years of healthy life (YHL) in the 10 years after baseline, for 5,747 older adults. YHL was defined in 16 different ways. We compared Normal and Overweight persons, classified either by body mass index (BMI) or by waist circumference (WC). Findings. YHL for Normal and Overweight persons differed significantly in 25% of the comparisons, of which half favored the Overweight. Measures of physical health favored Normal weight, while measures of mental health and quality of life favored Overweight. Overweight was less favorable when defined by WC than by BMI. Obese persons usually had worse outcomes. Discussion. Overweight older adults averaged as many years of life and years of healthy life as those of Normal weight. There may be no outcome based reason to distinguish Normal from Overweight for older adults. Conclusion. The “Overweight paradox” appears to hold for nonmortality outcomes. New adiposity standards are needed for older adults, possibly different by race and sex.