Obesity Now Poses As Great a Threat to Quality of Life As Smoking

San Diego, CA, 5 January 2010 – As the US population becomes increasingly obese while smoking rates continue to decline, obesity has become an equal, if not greater, contributor to the burden of disease and shortening of healthy life in comparison to smoking. In an article published in the February 2010 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers from Columbia University and The City College of New York calculate that the Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) lost due to obesity is now equal to, if not greater than, those lost due to smoking, both modifiable risk factors.

QALYs use preference-based measurements of Health-Related Quality of Life (HRQOL) which allow a person to state a relative preference for a given health outcome. Since one person may value a particular outcome differently than another person, these measures capture how each respondent views his or her own quality of life.

The 1993–2008 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), the largest ongoing state-based health survey of US adults, has conducted interviews of more than 3,500,000 individuals; annual interviews started with 102,263 in 1993 and culminated with 406,749 in 2008. This survey includes a set of questions that measures HRQOL, asking about recent poor health days and tracking overall physical and mental health of the population. The authors analyzed these data and converted the measures to QALYs lost due to smoking and obesity.

From 1993 to 2008, when the proportion of smokers among US adults declined 18.5%, smoking-related QALYs lost were relatively stable at 0.0438 QALYs lost per population. During the same period, the proportion of obese people increased 85% and this resulted in 0.0464 QALYs lost. Smoking had a bigger impact on deaths while obesity had a bigger impact on illness.

Investigators Haomiao Jia, PhD and Erica I. Lubetkin, MD, MPH, state, “Although life expectancy and QALE have increased over time, the increase in the contribution of mortality to QALYs lost from obesity may result in a decline in future life expectancy. Such data are essential in setting targets for reducing modifiable health risks and eliminating health disparities.”

The article is “Trends in Quality-Adjusted Life-Years Lost Contributed by Smoking and Obesity” by Haomiao Jia, PhD, and Erica I. Lubetkin, MD, MPH. The article appears in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Volume 38, Issue 2 (February 2010) published by Elsevier.

Full text of the article is available upon request; contact eAJPM@ucsd.edu to obtain copies. To schedule an interview with lead author Haomiao Jia, please contact +1 212-305-6929

###

Notes For Editors

Authors are:
Haomiao Jia, PhD, Department of Biostatistics, Mailman School of Public Health and School of Nursing, Columbia University
Erica I. Lubetkin, MD, MPH, Department of Community Health and Social Medicine Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education at The City College of New York

About The American Journal of Preventive Medicine
The American Journal of Preventive Medicine is the official journal of The American College of Preventive Medicine and the Association for Prevention Teaching and Research. It publishes articles in the areas of prevention research, teaching, practice and policy. Original research is published on interventions aimed at the prevention of chronic and acute disease and the promotion of individual and community health. The journal features papers that address the primary and secondary prevention of important clinical, behavioral and public health issues such as injury and violence, infectious disease, women's health, smoking, sedentary behaviors and physical activity, nutrition, diabetes, obesity, and alcohol and drug abuse. Papers also address educational initiatives aimed at improving the ability of health professionals to provide effective clinical prevention and public health services. The journal also publishes official policy statements from the two co-sponsoring organizations, health services research pertinent to prevention and public health, review articles, media reviews, and editorials.

The American Journal of Preventive Medicine is ranked 12th out of 105 Public, Environmental & Occupational Health titles and 16th out of 107 General and Internal Medicine titles according to the 2009 Journal Citation Reports© published by Thomson Reuters.

About Elsevier

Elsevier is a world-leading provider of information solutions that enhance the performance of science, health, and technology professionals, empowering them to make better decisions, deliver better care, and sometimes make groundbreaking discoveries that advance the boundaries of knowledge and human progress. Elsevier provides web-based, digital solutions — among them ScienceDirect, Scopus, Elsevier Research Intelligence, and ClinicalKey — and publishes nearly 2,200 journals, including The Lancet and Cell, and over 25,000 book titles, including a number of iconic reference works.

The company is part of Reed Elsevier Group PLC, a world leading provider of professional information solutions in the Science, Medical, Legal and Risk and Business sectors, which is jointly owned by Reed Elsevier PLC and Reed Elsevier NV. The ticker symbols are REN (Euronext Amsterdam), REL (London Stock Exchange), RUK and ENL (New York Stock Exchange).

Media Contact:
AJPM Editorial Office
+1 858 534 9340
eAJPM@ucsd.edu