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A study into the detrimental effects of obesity on life in the UK

Mayhew, L., Richardson, J. & Rickayzen, B. D. (2009). A study into the detrimental effects of obesity on life in the UK. Institute and Faculty of Actuaries.


This paper is an investigation into the effect of excess body fat on mortality within the UK. Health surveys from the UK are used to apply a Cox proportional hazards model to UK-specific data (Health and Lifestyle Survey, 1985) to provide an analysis, at various ages, of the effects of obesity on life expectancy. We explore the issues by replicating and extending US research with UK data using both Body Mass Index(BMI) and Waist to Height (WTH) as obesity measures. We measure the impact of obesity in adults on life expectancy and find that mortality risk associated with obesity in the UK is similar to that found in US studies. However, importantly, we also show WTH to be a better indicator of mortality risk than BMI. Our results
include the number of years of life lost (YLL) for UK lives in various severitycategories of obesity compared with lives of the same age at optimum levels of BMI or WTH. The research emphasizes how important it is for the government to promote healthy lifestyles in order to avoid premature death.

Publication Type: Report
Additional Information: Copyright © 2009 Institute and Faculty of Actuaries Material can be reproduced free of charge in any format or medium, providing it is: Not modified in any way; Not used out of context; Acknowledged as the IFoA’s or its relevant subsidiary’s copyright and the source is quoted; Used solely for your personal reference or non-commercial internal reference within your company or organisation.
Departments: Bayes Business School > Actuarial Science & Insurance
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