Can health conditions predict body weight? An analysis of Italian conscript patterns in the cohorts of 1951 and 1980

Luca Pieroni, Università di Perugia
Donatella Lanari, Università di Perugia

There is growing evidence that excess weight is associated with the chronic diseases and all-cause mortality. Correlations are found with major causes of metabolic, cardiovascular, neoplastic, digestive tract and several other major diseases, and with a premature mortality. The purpose of this study is approaching the well-being of Italian population from the perspective of the biological standard of living proxied by the anthropometric indicator of BMI. First, we analyse trends in BMI of nationally representative samples of Italian conscripts born in 1951 and 1980, and examine changes in the categories of underweight, overweight and obesity. Second, we investigate the relationship between health and BMI by using as proxies of health conditions specific pathologies based on the diagnoses of military conscripts, such as diabetes mellitus, asthma, and respiratory, cardiovascular and psychological diseases according to which young adult men were classified as unfit for military service. To investigate the relationships described we used data of conscripts from the archives of various military districts situated in the North, Centre and South of Italy, collected in a large dataset of young men who underwent the compulsory medical examination to ascertain their fitness for military service in the Army in 1969 and 1998, respectively. Our results seem to reflect the commonly held hypothesis that, in a poor and not uniformly developed economic and social context, overweight and underweight tend to be concentrated in high and low socio-economic status groups. In addition, we estimate the magnitude effects of each disease group over the heterogeneous BMI distribution. By using the significant estimates of physical health disorders on BMI increase, we explain why the 1980 generation has suffered the risk of an increase in obesity.

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Presented in Session 23: Obesity and health/mortality