Study Reports Obese People Suffer More Chronic Conditions

Smoking, heavy drinking and poverty are all bad for one's health, but obesity could be worse.

Economist Roland Sturm and his colleagues at Rand Corp. surveyed 9,585 adults by telephone about their weight, height, smoking and drinking habits, income and quality of life. They also determined whether the subjects had any of 17 chronic health problems, such as asthma, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The researchers reported in the June issue of Public Health that 23% of the subjects were obese and an additional 36% were overweight. They also found that people of normal weight in the survey had an average of 1.1 chronic conditions; overweight people had an average of 1.3, obese people had an average of 1.7, and the very obese had an average of 2. Those numbers are slightly higher than the numbers for people living in poverty and much higher than those for smokers or heavy drinkers, Sturm said.

The study suggests that public health authorities should focus as much on combating obesity as they do on preventing smoking.

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