Obesity is now a bigger overall threat to people’s health than smoking, according to results of the longest ongoing health study of adults in the United States.
Obesity causes as much or more disease than tobacco, says the study, conducted by researchers from Columbia University and the City College of New York. It adds that while smoking rates are starting to decline, obesity now shortens as many or even more healthy lifespans than tobacco use.
“Health impacts of obesity are, in many ways, much larger, than the health impacts of smoking,” said Dr. Arya Sharma, chairman for obesity research and management at the University of Alberta. “(Smoking) in the end, is limited to heart disease and cancer.”
The study, conducted over 15 years, was based on interviews with more than 3.5 million people and calculations of the number of “quality-adjusted life years” (QALYs) lost to obesity and smoking.
Quality-adjusted life years are a measurement of the quality and quantity of a life lived, and assign higher scores to perfect or good health, and lower scores to illness, injury and death.
Between 1993 and 2008, smoking in American adults declined by 18.5 per cent, while the proportion of obese people increased by 85 per cent, the study says.
Overall, smoking caused more deaths but obesity has a greater impact on illness, said the researchers.