Weight Associated With Hospitalization Risk
October 21, 2012

High BMI Increases A Person’s Risk Of Being Hospitalized

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports — Your Universe Online

Overweight individuals, even those who are not clinically obese, are more likely to be hospitalized than those who are lean, fit, and in good physical condition, the Australian researchers behind a new study have discovered.

According to Genevra Pittman of Reuters Health, the study discovered that for every six or seven pounds a middle-aged adult carries, the chances they will have to be admitted to a hospital within the next two years increases by 4%.

"There is considerable evidence that severe obesity is bad for your health, resulting in higher rates of disease and consequently higher use of health services and higher death rates," lead author Rosemary Korda, from the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, told Pittman in an email interview.

Those six or seven pounds are approximately equal to one body mass index (BMI) point, and according to Korda, the study shows that once a person's index score enters the overweight range, there is a "gradual increase in the risk of hospitalization" that correlates with an increasing BMI score.

Korda's team came to that conclusion following a study of nearly 250,000 people at least 45 years of age from New South Wales, Pittman explained. Each study participant was asked about their height, weight, physical activity levels, and other health-related issues. They were then tracked through their hospital data over the next 24 months.

There were more than 61,500 total hospitalizations over that time frame, with conditions including circulatory, digestive, and respiratory diseases. Among those who had BMI readings in the normal range, there were 120 hospitalizations per 1,000 men and 102 per 1,000 women each year.

Those numbers increased to 203 and 183 for obese men and women, respectively, while "overweight and moderately obese people had hospitalization rates somewhere in between," Pittman said.

"That pattern held up even after taking into account whether participants smoked, how physically active they were and their general health at the start of the study," the Reuters reporter explained. "Extra weight seemed especially to play a role in people's chances of being hospitalized for diabetes, heart disease, chest pain, arthritis and asthma."

Their findings have been published in the International Journal of Obesity.

"Even people who are overweight but not obese are more likely to experience these health problems than people who are of healthy weight," Korda said. "While increasing weight leads to increasing risk, this also means that a gradual decrease in weight is likely to gradually decrease your risk -- i.e. if you are overweight or obese, even small decreases in weight may make a positive difference to your health."