Dissertation

The Relation of Obesity, Disability, and Mortality Across the Life Course: A Few Stylized Findings

Heide Jackson

An Overview of My Chapters

  • Chapter 1 examines how early onset of obesity may predict the timing of work disability.
  • Chapter 2 studies whether the influence of occupational exposures on later life health differs by whether a person is obese around retirement.
  • Chapter 3 tests whether disease wasting may explain the obesity-mortality paradox–why it is that the obese appear to be more likely to get sick but less likely to die.

Key Finding-Chapter 1

  • Obesity has the same relative impact on the work disability risk of African American, Hispanic, and White men.
  • However, the absolute impact of obesity is greatest for African Americans who had previously elevated disability risk.
  • Effects of obesity hold after accounting for social and demographic factors–race, education, smoking history.

Key Finding-Chapter 2

  • The health trajectories of obese and non-obese persons following retirement differ by past occupational exposures.
  • Individuals who are obese around retirement acquire more limitations in activities of daily living compared to non-obese persons if they were previously engaged in occupations with high levels of physical activity.
  • If engaged in sedentary occupations, obese and non-obese persons have similar levels of limitations in activities of daily living over time.
  • Results are robust to the inclusion of other covariates and other occuaptional activities.

Key Finding-Chapter 3

  • Disease wasting, severe weight loss following the onset of a serious chronic condition, can explain why it is that obese persons appear more likely to become chronically ill but less likely to die.
  • Obese persons are more likely to lose weight after developing a chronic disease and die while non-obese.
  • Mortality rates are comparable among healthy obese and non-obese older adults.
  • Survey attrition does not explain the obesity mortality paradox.