Adults with disabilities more likely to be obese

Adults with a disability are more likely to be obese or extremely obese compared with adults without a disability, according to recent study results published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

Researchers from the University of Texas School of Public Health pooled six waves of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 2012 to compare the prevalence of obesity and extreme obesity of adults with disabilities vs. those without disabilities. Chronic disease risk factors, including blood pressure, lipids, C-reactive protein and glucose, were compared across weight categories, by disability severity and disability status.

Overall, study results showed that obesity and extreme obesity prevalence was significantly higher among adults with disabilities vs. those without disabilities. Researchers also found that disability severity and disability status negatively affected nearly all chronic disease risk factors. Individuals with disabilities at all weight categories were significantly more likely to report being diagnosed with hypertension, high cholesterol or diabetes and to have been prescribed antihypertensive and lipid-lowering medications, according to study results.

Of 54 million Americans living with a disability, the results suggest that nearly 42% percent of American adults with a disability are obese and 9% are extremely obese.

“Prior to this research, national samples only indicated obesity prevalence in adults with disabilities at 29% to 31%,” Katherine Froehlich-Grobe, PhD, associate professor of health promotion and behavioral science at the University of  Texas School of Public Health Dallas Regional Campus, stated in a news release.

“Health care providers face a challenge when it comes to helping their patients with a disability manage their weight when exercise and physical activity play such an important role in weight management,” she said. “People with disabilities are underserved by national efforts aiming at reducing and preventing obesity. We must focus on managing and reducing weight for individuals with a disability.”

For more information:                                                                 

Froehlich-Grobe K. Am J Prev Med. 2013;45:83-90.

Disclosure: The researchers have no relevant financial disclosures.

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