Obesity epidemic may reduce life span

Life expectancy in the US, about 80 years for women and 75 for men, would continue to rise for the next five to 10 years but then level off and decline as more obese children reach adulthood. About 68 per cent of Australian men and 52 per cent of Australian women are overweight or obese. Research suggesting life expectancy will decline for the first time in 1000 years due to the obesity epidemic.

A paper published in The New England Journal of Medicine predicts a decrease in life expectancy and experts say Australia will mirror the trend.

The drop will occur when this generation of obese and overweight adults reaches old age, and will worsen when obese and overweight children hit middle age. “It is distinctly possible that our children may live shorter lives than us. It’s a frightening prospect,” study author Professor S. Jay Olshansky said yesterday in Brisbane, at the second International Conference on Healthy Ageing and Longevity.

According to his research, the decline in life expectancy will take effect in the first half of this century. To start with, life spans will shorten by four to eight months.

In coming decades, as obese children carry their elevated risks of death and disease into older ages, our populations could lose two to five years from the average life span.

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