A recent study by CEPAR Associate Investigator Professor Carol Jagger and Dr Andrew Kingston of Newcastle University UK, in collaboration with Deputy Director Scientia Professor Kaarin Anstey, CEPAR Associate Investigators Professor Julie Byles, and Dr Kim Kiely, has examined the impact of smoking and obesity on disability-free life expectancy at older ages. The findings emphasise the need to invest in prevention programs to reduce rates of smoking and obesity.
For many countries life expectancy is increasing at a faster rate than healthy life expectancy, resulting in more years with disability and dependency, the researchers write in their paper which was published in the Journals of Gerontology.
“Public health efforts should therefore focus on identifying factors that will delay functional decline to compress the time people spend in receipt of formal care, and therefore reducing costs to individuals and the state,” said Scientia Professor Kaarin Anstey.
“In our study we have identified smoking and obesity as two modifiable risk factors for disability and examined their impact on disability-free life expectancy at older ages.
“We found that eliminating obesity in particular would lead to an absolute reduction of disability, especially in women. At a population level, the effects of obesity on disability are considerable; obese people are living as long as healthy weight counterparts but with more years with disability,” she said.
The researchers found that obesity had the largest effect on mobility disability in women. In particular, high educated obese non-smoking women lived 1.3 years less than non-smoking, not obese women, but had 5.1 years fewer free of mobility disability and an extra 3.5 years with mobility disability at age 65.
Men and women who smoked but were not obese lived around 2.5 years less and two years fewer free of disability. Thus, elimination of smoking would result in an increase in total life years but not all the years would be free of disability, according to the researchers.
“Our findings emphasise the need to invest in prevention programs to reduce rates of smoking and obesity. In particular, the findings suggest eliminating obesity would lead to an absolute reduction of disability, especially in women,” said Scientia Professor Kaarin Anstey.
Andrew Kingston, PhD, Julie Byles, PhD, Kim Kiely, PhD, Kaarin Anstey, PhD, Carol Jagger, PhD, The impact of smoking and obesity on disability-free life expectancy in older Australians, The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glaa290