Life expectancy is still rising – despite obesity epidemic

We are living longer despite getting fatter, and there is no sign yet that the increase in life expectancy is coming to an end, according to a study.

A baby born today in the West can look forward to between six and eight years of extra life compared with one born in 1970. Moreover, Britons are outliving Americans, despite the US having a higher national income and the highest spending on healthcare.

Some doom mongers have warned that today's children could be the first to die sooner than their parents because of the global explosion in obesity, but researchers say life expectancy is increasing in almost all European countries for the first time in decades.

But obesity has also been rising in the UK, from 7 per cent of adults in 1980 to 23 per cent in 2009. Rates are even higher in the US. Obesity is known to increase the risk of heart disease, cancer, Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure – so why is life expectancy not declining?

Professor David Leon, an expert on population health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who analysed the figures in the International Journal of Epidemiology, said: "There is a tendency for people to talk about things going wrong. But it is important the public are made aware that, so far, things are going right."

However, he warned there was no room for complacency and that many important questions remained about the drivers of the trends – such as the decline in smoking since 1970 and the fact heart disease deaths have fallen faster in the UK than in any other western European country.

But a little extra weight might also be good for you. Professor Leon said: "If you get poorly you lose weight. So if you fall sick it may be better if you have got something in reserve to call on."

A study by Katherine Flegal, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2007, suggested fitness, not fatness, was the key determinant of longevity. Those who were overweight, smoked, ate junk food and took no exercise were heading for an early grave – all factors which increased the risk of heart disease and cancer.

But for those who were a little chubby but had a healthy lifestyle, the outlook was rosier. They were more likely to die of some conditions, such as kidney disease and diabetes, but less likely to die from lung diseases.

Overall, people who were overweight had a lower mortality rate than people who were underweight, obese or normal.

However, Professor Leon warned that quality of life was just as important.

For example, diabetes is soaring and destroys the eyes and the circulation, leaving victims blind and limbless (through amputation) before they die.

"It may be that we are holding off the fatal consequences of diabetes with better treatment," he said. "But there are huge consequences in terms of the burden on the health service – patients have to take a lot of pills and face a lot of complications."

Life and Style
health

Do you qualify – and how do you get it?

News
Food blogger and Guardian writer Jack Monroe with her young son
people
News
i100
News
Privately schooled, Oxford educated and a former editor of arguably the world's poshest magazine 'The Lady', it's perhaps unsurprising that Rachel Johnson rarely mixes with ordinary Proles.
people

The Mayor of London's sister, Rachel Johnson, apologises for shocking tweet about the PM

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Environment
The plant ‘Nepenthes zygon’ was donated to Kew in 2004
environmentNepenthes zygon had been growing for almost a decade and helping to keep down cockroaches
News
This artist impression shows a modern-day Atlantis
news
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer snapped celebrities for 40 years - but it wasn’t all fun and games
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development - Telecommunications - £50,000 OTE

    £25000 per annum + £50,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Reading , Southend, Al...

    Recruitment Genius: Call Centre Agent - £22,000 OTE

    £18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a Call Centre Agent you will...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £20,000

    £12000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

    Langley James : IT Helpdesk Technician; earn £'s for Xmas; Brighton; £120+ p/d

    £120 - £130 per day: Langley James : IT Helpdesk Technician; earn £'s for Xmas...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
    Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

    24-Hour party person

    Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
    Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

    A taste for rebellion

    US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
    Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

    Colouring books for adults

    How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
    Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
    Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

    Call me Ed Mozart

    Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
    10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
    Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
    'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

    'I am a paedophile'

    Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
    Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

    From a lost deposit to victory

    Green Party on the march in Bristol
    Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

    Winter blunderlands

    Putting the grot into grotto
    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

    London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital