Obesity can shorten someone’s health span by as many as 8 years, says research released this month in “The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology” journal. When coupled with the complication of type 2 diabetes–one of the most common obesity-related health issues– that number can more than double, decreasing a life span by almost 20 years.
“The pattern is clear. The more an individual weighs and the younger their age, the greater the effect on their health, as they have many years ahead of them during which the increased health risks associated with obesity can negatively impact their lives,” said Dr. Steven Grover, lead author and professor of medicine at McGill University, to MNT. “These clinically meaningful calculations should prove useful for obese individuals and health professionals to better appreciate the scale of the problem and the substantial benefits of a healthier lifestyle, including changes to diet and regular physical activity.”
In addition to reducing the number of years a person was likely to live, obesity also decreased the number of healthy years that individual experienced. This meant that, if obesity decreased someone’s life span to age 45, that individual may already have experienced poor quality of life since age 40, 35, or 30, for example.
Though researchers feel the data can be used to help offer preventative medicine strategies earlier for people who are obese, the findings are still concerning, given more than one-third of adults in the United States or overweight or obese. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicate that’s approximately 78 million people who have an increased risk for obesity-related health conditions like diabetes or cardiovascular disease.
Though obesity was indicated in the study as the major culprit of shortening someone’s lifespan, researchers note that being overweight in general was linked to a life expectancy loss of up to three years. Among participants in the study, those most heavily impacted by being overweight or obese were young adults. Individuals between the ages of 20 and 29 showed the highest losses of healthy life-years, according to researchers.