BOSTON -- Baby-boomers have spent more years living with more obesitythan the previous generation, researchers at Beth Israel DeaconessMedical Center (BIDMC) have found. Although it may be too early to tellwhether this will lead to a rise in arthritis rates, the study showsmore obesity-related arthritis among baby boomers compared to theprevious generation.
The study, published in the September issue of the American Journal ofPublic Health, concluded that obesity rates grew substantially for thebaby-boomer generation (born 1946-1965) when compared to the "silentgeneration" (born 1926-1945). Obesity also increased for thebaby-boomers at a younger age than the silent generation.
"We found that the obesity epidemic has affected both the baby-boomersand their predecessors but that the baby-boomers got a much earlierstart, and have spent more of their lives in an obese state even thoughwe've known that they have had better access to nutrition andinformation about exercise for much of their lives," says SuzanneLeveille, PhD, senior author of the study.
Arthritis risk soared along with the obesity rates of the baby-boomers,and arthritis cases attributed to obesity rose from 3 percent to 18percent between 1971 and 2002. Many factors can be attributed to thisrise, including the way physicians diagnose arthritis over time, butresearchers say the rise in obesity cannot be ignored.
"Baby-boomers are just approaching the age when arthritis ratesbegin to rise dramatically. Many baby-boomers have lived with obesityfor much of their lives. We can expect to see the health and functionalconsequences of this epidemic in the coming decades," says Leveille.
"Public health strategies to address obesity and arthritismanagement could have a major impact on the lives of aging baby-boomersin the years to come."
The researchers used data collected by the US Bureau of the Census andthe National Center for Health Statistics. The researchers explored the1980 to 2000 decennial censuses and the results from the 1971 to 2002National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES).
In addition to Leveille, study co-authors included BIDMC investigatorsChristina Wee, MD, MPH, and Lisa Iezzoni, MD, MSc. The authors are allwith the Division of General Medicine and Primary Care at BIDMC and theDepartment of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
This study was supported by grants from the Arthritis Foundation, theNational Bureau of Economics Research, the National Institute on Agingand the Lasker Foundation.
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a major patient care, teachingand research affiliate of Harvard Medical School, and ranks third inNational Institutes of Health funding among independent hospitalsnationwide. BIDMC is clinically affiliated with the Joslin DiabetesCenter and is a founding member of the Dana-Farber/Harvard CancerCenter. BIDMC is the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox. For moreinformation, visit www.bidmc.harvard.edu.
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