Children born today enter a world where more than one-third of all adults in the United States are obese. They also face the prospect of being part of the one-fifth of American children who are obese. These risks of obesity significantly increase mortality rates. According to a new study by researchers from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation at Columbia University, obesity is responsible for 18 percent of deaths in the U.S. Unfortunately, it’s possible that number will continue to grow if obesity rates follow the trend they’re on now. They have more than doubled since 1980.
The study found that the problem isn’t exclusive to older individuals, but rather people from younger generations who, as they age, have a greater chance of developing obesity-related health problems. “Obesity is unhealthy at any age, but as obese individuals grow older, they are more likely to experience serious health complications of obesity, including premature death,” said Ryan Masters, Ph.D, study author and researcher at Columbia in an interview with HealthlineNews. Masters fears that while the results of the study are worrying, they could actually be worse than they appear. He feels as obese individuals age and encounter health problems; they are less likely to participate in studies like the one conducted at Columbia. This can make the results skew healthier, an error he tried to correct in the results to allow for the discrepancy.
Though the results may be slightly off, the study found that women are at a significantly higher risk of obesity-related death than men. Black and white women at any age had 26.8 and 21.7 percent respectively of obesity related deaths, making them the two groups at most risk. “Our findings suggest obesity remains a strong mortality risk factor across all ages,” said Masters. This news comes just months after the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention released their own study saying childhood obesity had declined in 19 of 43 states and territories between 2008 and 2011. Masters said that his research shows the obesity epidemic may not be improving as much as some think.
A different aspect of the obesity epidemic was the focus of the study. This “third dimension” states that younger generations are at a higher risk of obesity and related health problems than the rest of the population. A greater risk can be attributed to changes in environment, lifestyle and diet that have taken place over that last 50 years. People who have already reached retirement age lived most of their lives before obesity became a norm. It’s the younger generations that are truly facing an obesity crisis. “Generations that have been born into, raised in, and grown up through these new environmental, lifestyle, nutritional conditions are bearing the greatest brunt in terms of prevalence of high body mass and the adverse health consequences,” said Masters.