The relationship between body mass index and the prevalence of obesity-related diseases based on the 1995 National Health Interview Survey in Korea


Address reprint requests to:OR Moon, Division of Health Policy, Graduate School of Public Health, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea. E-mail:


This study estimated the body mass index (BMI) distribution of Koreans and examined the relationship between BMI and obesity-related diseases, in particular hypertension and diabetes mellitus. We also attempted to provide primary data to determine suitable BMI cut-off points for obesity in Korea. The 1995 National Health Interview Study (NHIS) data were used to estimate BMI and the prevalence of hypertension and diabetes mellitus. A random sample of 5750 Koreans (15–69 years of age) were investigated. BMI was calculated by self-reported weights and heights. The diagnoses of hypertension and diabetes mellitus were obtained from self-reported conditions specified in response to consultations with physicians. The mean BMI was 22.6 ± 2.6 kg m−2 for males and 21.7 ± 4.8 kg m−2 for females. The prevalence of hypertension and diabetes mellitus increased with BMI. The odds ratios of the third quartile of BMI (21.9–23.8 kg m−2) for hypertension and diabetes mellitus compared with the first quartile were 6.04 and 3.22, respectively. The odds ratio of the fourth quartile (>23.8 kg m−2) of BMI was not significantly different from that of the third quartile. The risk of hypertension and diabetes mellitus increased at the third quartile of BMI (21.9–23.8 kg m−2), this quartile being much lower than both the current World Health Organization (WHO) BMI cut-off point of overweight of 25.0 kg m−2, and the 90th percentile proposed in the Monica project, BMI 26.4 kg m−2. This finding was notable considering the fact that both hypertension and diabetes mellitus occur in Koreans with lower BMIs than whites. Further studies are necessary to identify the BMI cut-off point for obesity in Korea.