Moderately To Severely Obese Elderly Run Significant Risk Of Disability And Dependence On Long-Term Care Services, Finds Study Presented At AGS
Since the 1980s, rates of obesity among older adults have been rising dramatically. Obesity can boost risks of numerous health problems, including high blood pressure, arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
To determine how rising obesity rates among older adults affect risks of disability and demand for long-term care services, researchers at Purdue University studied more than 4,600 older adults. The adults, whose average age was 76, lived in the community, rather than in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Of the adults, 39% were normal weight, 39% were overweight, 15% were mildly obese and 6% were moderately to severely obese. (The study excluded underweight older adults, who, research has found, also run increased risks of certain health problems).
Among the older adults, those who were moderately and severely obese were significantly more likely than those of normal weight to have difficulty carrying out activities of daily living (ADLs) -- such as feeding themselves, dressing, getting into or out of a bed or chair, bathing, or using the toilet, the Purdue researchers found. People who can't carry out these everyday activities independently typically need personal care or other long-term care services. In fact, 33% of the moderately or severely obese seniors in the study reported using either paid or unpaid personal care services.
Older adults in the study who were mildly obese or overweight, however, were not significantly more likely than normal weight peers to have difficulty with ADLs. Only 22% of the mildly obese and 20% of the overweight seniors used personal care services.
"We expected a higher rate of ADL disability among (all) obesity categories, but found that only the moderately to severely obese respondents were at significantly higher risk of this," says lead researcher Laura P. Sands, PhD, a professor of nursing at Purdue. "These findings suggest that most obesity-related increases in need for long-term care in the coming decade will be attributable to moderate to extreme obesity."
Founded in 1942, the American Geriatrics Society is a nationwide, not-for-profit association of geriatrics health care professionals dedicated to improving the health, independence and quality of life of all older people. The Society supports this mission through activities in clinical practice, professional and public education, research and public policy. With an active membership of over 6,700 health care professionals, the Society has become a pivotal force in shaping attitudes, policies and practices in geriatric medicine.
American Geriatrics Society
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