SYDNEY — No one needs a scientific study or trip to the doctor to know that being overweight or obese is generally unhealthy, but a recent study has illustrated just how detrimental that excess weight can be. According to a study by Australian researchers at the George Institute for Global Health and the University of Sydney, young adults who are classified as obese are more likely to die up to 10 years earlier than those who aren’t obese in their 20s.
Taken as a whole, the study estimated that 36.3 million years of life will be lost over the lifetime of present-day Australia’s adult population due to excess weight and obesity. Men are expected to lose 27% more years of life expectancy on average than women.
“We know that excess weight has an impact on your health, but to have excess weight as a young adult is really significant on life expectancy. We are talking about losing up to 10 years of your life,” says lead author Thomas Lung, of the George Institute of Global Health, in a statement.
The statistical model used by Dr. Lung calculated the expected amount of weight adults will add each year depending on their age, gender, and current weight. It also took into account current life expectancy in Australia, along with a higher mortality rate among people with excess weight.
The model predicted the remaining life expectancy for Australian individuals in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s in four weight categories, ranging from healthy to severely obese. The model also calculated the number of years lost for overweight people in each age group compared to individuals with a healthy weight.
While these statistics are only regarding Australia, researchers say they can conceivably apply to to other high-income countries like the United States, Canada, or the United Kingdom.
Among the study’s key findings:
- Men and women currently in their 20s with average to healthy body weight can expect to live another 57 to 60 years. However, individuals in their 20s in an obese weight category will lose an average of six years among women and eight years among men. Those who are severely obese have even shorter projected lifespans; severely obese women will lose eight years of their lives, and men will lose 10 years.
- Differences among genders mean that Australian men in their 20s today will lose 5.6 million years of life due to excess weight, while women in the same age bracket will lose 3 million years.
There has been a threefold increase in obese Australians since 1995, and researchers say their findings emphasize the urgent need to institute better public awareness, education, and support facilities in order to combat this growing problem.
“There is the assumption that overweight and obesity is a problem for people in middle age, and that people in their 20s and 30s are in the prime of their lives. Yet currently, only 43% of Australian men in their 20s and 34% in their 30s are in a healthy weight range, which is worrying.” comments co-author Associate Professor Alison Hayes.
“Our model predicts adult obesity prevalence will increase to 35% by 2025. We need to act now and have an obesity prevention strategy targeting adults at all ages and in particular young adults,” Dr. Lung concludes.
The study is published in the International Journal of Obesity.