LOS ANGELES — Obese adults have more chronic health problems than smokers, heavy drinkers or the poor, according to a study released Wednesday.
The report by the RAND institute in Santa Monica found that obese people have on average nearly twice the chronic health troubles of people of normal weight.
“We didn’t expect this big difference,” said Roland Sturm, a RAND economist and lead author of the survey, which was published in the latest edition of the British journal Public Health.
The study also found that smoking harms the health of women more than men, with female smokers having about 40 percent more chronic health problems than nonsmokers. The figure was 30 percent for men.
Sturm said the survey, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, demonstrates that public health officials should intensify their fight against obesity to levels that at least match the public health campaign against smoking.
The study found that more people are overweight or obese than are those collectively who smoke, drink heavily and live below the federal poverty line.
The telephone survey, which was conducted in 1998, asked 9,585 adults about their weight, height, smoking and drinking habits, income and quality of life. They also were asked if they had any of 17 chronic health problems, including asthma, cancer, diabetes and heart problems.
Obesity was determined by finding a respondent’s body mass index, a figure derived by multiplying a person’s weight in pounds by 703 and dividing that result by height in inches squared.
People of normal weight have a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9; those considered overweight score between 25 and 29.9; obese people are between 30 and 34.9 and very obese people are over 35.
The survey found that 59 percent of Americans are at least overweight — a figure that is in line with other recent studies.
The study found that people of normal weight had an average of 1.1 chronic conditions. Overweight people had an average of an additional 0.2 chronic conditions, obese people had an additional 0.6 chronic conditions and the very obese had 0.9 more conditions.
The study showed the obese tend to have slightly more health problems than people living in poverty and far more than daily smokers or heavy drinkers.
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