Body mass index and disability in adulthood: A 20-year panel study

Kenneth F. Ferraro*, Ya Ping Su, Randall J. Gretebeck, David R. Black, Stephen F. Badylak

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

203 Scopus citations


Objectives. This study examined whether body mass index (BMI) or change in BMI raises the risk of disability in adulthood. Methods. The relation between BMI and upper- and lower-body disability was examined among adult subjects from a national longitudinal survey (n = 6833). Tobit regression models were used to examine the effect of BMI on disability 10 and 20 years later. Results. Obesity (BMI≥30) at baseline or becoming obese during the study was associated with higher levels of upper- and, especially, lower-body disability. In persons who began the study with a BMI of 30 or more and became normal weight, disability was not reduced. Underweight persons (BMI < 18.5) also manifested higher disability in most instances. Conclusions. Disability risk was higher for obese persons, but overweight was not consistently associated with higher disability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)834-840
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Public Health
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


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