RELEASES
EXPERTS
NOTICIAS EN ESPAñOL
photo services
news staff
BROADCAST
U-M IN THE NEWS RESEARCH NEWS
VP COMMUNICATIONS
Marketing & Design
Tips for faculty
Publications
UNIVERSITY RECORD RECORD UPDATE MICHIGAN TODAY
Social Networks
FACEBOOK TWITTER YOUTUBE MOST EMAILED
 
412 MAYNARD STREET
ANN ARBOR, MI
48109-1399
PHONE: (734)764-7260
FAX: (734) 764-7084

April 27, 2004

U-M study shows why it's never too late to lose weight

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Don't give up the fight against fat even when the years are piling up faster than the pounds. A University of Michigan study in the current (April 2004) issue of The Gerontologist shows that obesity has a dramatic impact on an older person's chances of leading an active and independent life.

"The findings point to some good reasons why it is important for seniors to maintain a healthy weight," said Kristi Rahrig Jenkins, a sociologist at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR) and the author of the article, "Obesity's Effects on the Onset of Functional Impairment Among Older Adults."

For the study, Jenkins analyzed data on 4,087 men and women age 70 and older from the ISR Health and Retirement Study, funded by the National Institute on Aging. About 46 percent were normal weight, as determined by their body weight index (BMI), while 37.2 percent were overweight and 13.5 percent were obese.

Even when Jenkins controlled for health behaviors including smoking, binge drinking and exercising, and for health conditions and symptoms, she found that obese seniors were twice as likely as their normal weight peers to develop problems with strength (including getting up from a chair after sitting for long periods) and lower-body mobility (including walking a block and climbing a flight of stairs). They were also much more likely than normal weight seniors to report having trouble dressing and bathing themselves, eating or getting out of bed.

Jenkins and U-M colleagues have also conducted a series of recent studies examining how body weight changes over time, starting in middle-age. Over a six-year period, the researchers found that body mass index gradually increased for men and women in their 50s and 60s, then gradually decreased over age 70. There were considerable variations by race/ethnicity and by gender

Taken together, the findings clearly show that Americans have good reasons to eat healthy diets and exercise during the second half of life. "You're never too old to enjoy the benefits of a healthy weight," Jenkins said.

Interventions to encourage healthy weight maintenance and weight management are essential, she said. "The development of effective interventions that target this health problem for a significant and growing number of older adults is vital to prevent or delay the onset of functional impairment in later life and to improve the quality of life of our rapidly growing aging population," Jenkins said.

Established in 1948, the Institute for Social Research (ISR) is among the world's oldest survey research organizations, and a world leader in the development and application of social science methodology. ISR conducts some of the most widely-cited studies in the nation, including the Survey of Consumer Attitudes, the National Election Studies, the Monitoring the Future Study, the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, the Health and Retirement Study, the Columbia County Longitudinal Study and the National Survey of Black Americans. ISR researchers also collaborate with social scientists in more than 60 nations on the World Values Surveys and other projects, and the Institute has established formal ties with universities in Poland, China, and South Africa. Visit the ISR Web site at www.isr.umich.edu for more information. ISR is also home to the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), the world's largest computerized social science data archive.

Contact: Diane Swanbrow
Phone: (734) 647-9069
E-mail: swanbrow@umich.edu