Fat and Happy May Be the Key to Senior Health

According to a new study conducted by University of Chicago researchers, happiness and satisfaction are better predictors of well-being during one’s senior years than a person’s weight.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science. The study found that 22 percent of seniors in the US fit the description of “healthy and robust” despite having high blood pressure and being obese.

These fatter elders also had less organ system diseases, were more mobile and had better sensory function and were healthier psychologically compared to their thinner, but sadder cohorts. Loneliness, depression, and having recently broken a bone were more likely to predict the risk of dying than being overweight.

The study looked at 3,000 people between the ages of 57 and 85.

The group that was twice as likely to die over a five year period were in fact those people of normal weight. When normal weight was combined with key health issues such as thyroid disease, anemia, ulcers, people who had broken a bone after age 45, or mental health issues, mortality rates doubled.

The unhealthiest people were those with uncontrolled diabetes and high blood pressure, and those who have trouble with their mobility and partaking in the daily tasks of life.

“Instead of policies focused on reducing obesity as a much lamented health condition, greater support for reducing loneliness among isolated older adults or restoring sensory functions would be more effective in enhancing health and well-being in the older population,” says co-author Edward Laumann of the University of Chicago.