WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Living longer with obesity can lead to both longer hospital stays and more avoidable trips to the hospital, according to two new studies from Purdue University.
"Americans are overweight, and there are numerous studies that cite the problems of obesity," said Ken Ferraro, a professor of sociology. "However, as the age at which people become obese continues to get younger, we wanted to know how living longer with obesity affects people.
"These findings could motivate young people to reverse the trend with healthy eating and activity and, if so, they may be able to avoid the consequences of chronic obesity."
Ferraro, along with graduate student Markus Schafer, studied how obesity influences hospitalizations by using 20 years of personal health data based on surveys linked to hospital records of more than 4,000 people ages 25-77. The data, from 1971-1992, was part of a federally funded national health and nutrition survey.
"In an economic sense, we have a major problem on our hands in terms of what we would project for today's overweight children and teenagers," said Ferraro, who is director of Purdue's Center on Aging and the Life Course. "In the past, people's weight peaked during late middle age. As more young people become obese, we may anticipate accumulated health problems by the time they are 40. If they are going to be obese for 30, 40 or 50 years, then the health-care costs associated with their adult medical needs will skyrocket. These findings are more evidence that we need to act now to reverse the obesity trend in our younger people. Although it is hard to project the future from these data, the likely scenarios portend a diabetes epidemic."
The study by Schafer and Ferraro examining the length of hospital stays appears in this month's Journal of Health and Social Behavior.
"Other research evaluating obesity and hospitalization has typically assessed short-term effects
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