Older, obese people may be more prone to falls than their thinner peers, a study finds, and some may also be more prone to disability.
The study, published recently in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, followed 10,755 people age 65 and older for eight years. In that time there were 9,621 falls, and 3,130 of them required medical attention for injuries. Researchers also measured how much the fall affected activities of daily living, such as eating, getting dressed and walking across a room.
Among those who fell, 23.1% were obese and 4.7% were underweight. Among those who didn’t fall, 19.7% were obese and 4.2% were underweight. Being heavier increased the chances of falling; those in class 1 obesity (a body mass index of 30 to 34.9) had a 12% greater risk of having fallen, those in class 2 (a BMI of 35 to 39.9) had a 26% greater risk, and those in class 3 (a BMI of 40 or higher) had a 50% greater risk, compared with normal weight people.
Being obese was linked with having more disability after a fall as well, compared with those of normal weight. Those in class 1 obesity had a 17% higher risk, and those in class 2 had a 39% higher risk. Having class 3 obesity was not associated with greater disability, and may have a protective effect.