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Keywords:

  • obesity;
  • elderly;
  • prevalence

Objectives: To estimate the prevalence of obesity in elderly Americans in 2010 and to discuss the health and economic implications of these estimates.

Design: Three methods of generating future point-prevalence estimates using data from consecutive cross-sectional studies.

Setting: All regions of the United States.

Participants: Estimates were based on five nationally representative surveys of the adult population of the United States, conducted from 1960 to 2000, and population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Measurements: Changes in obesity (body mass index (BMI) ≥30 kg/m2) and normal weight (BMI <25 kg/m2) prevalence for men and women by 10-year U.S. birth cohorts were examined. The prevalence of obesity and normal weight in the elderly in 2010 was estimated under three different scenarios of obesity prevalence change.

Results: It was estimated that the prevalence of obesity in adults aged 60 and older will increase from 32.0% in 2000 to 37.4% in 2010 (range 33.6–39.6%). The number of obese adults aged 60 and older will increase from 14.6 to 20.9 million (range 18.8–22.2 million). Similarly, it was estimated that the prevalence of normal weight among adults aged 60 and older will decrease from 30.6% in 2000 to 26.7% in 2010 (range 31.0–24.7%).

Conclusion: The prevalence of obesity in elderly Americans will likely continue to increase, challenging healthcare delivery and financing systems in the United States.