Obese individuals are frequently reported to have reduced quality of life (QoL) compared to healthy lean individuals. Yet the variability in self-reported quality of life among different obese age groups has rarely been examined. We examined the effects of age on self-reported QoL.
Data was pooled from numerous studies where participants had completed the Short Form-36 at baseline, to yield cross-sectional data from 1673 obese individuals (BMI 30.0-59.9kg/m2; age 14-71 years). Participants were divided into quintiles by age and one-way ANOVA performed to examine differences in the eight domains and the Mental and Physical Component Summary scores (MCS and PCS). We were particularly interested in the younger age range, so all adolescents (14-18 yrs, n=81) were gender- and BMI-matched to participants in their 20s and 30s for a sub-analysis of the perceived QoL in these age groups.
The mean PCS and MCS for the whole cohort were below community norms (50.0) at 38.7 and 46.3 respectively. With increasing age, Physical Function and Bodily Pain worsened significantly. However the MCS actually improved with age (Q1: 44.5, vs Q5: 48.7), indicating older obese people had a more positive outlook than younger participants. This was not influenced by BMI, which was equivalent across quintiles (mean BMI range: 42.0-43.7kg/m2). Adolescents scored significantly better on all domains than those in their 20s or 30s, with those in their 20s reporting the poorest QoL. The pattern was particularly strong in the Physical Function, Social Functioning, Mental Health and Role Emotional domains.
Our findings suggest that obese adolescents may actually be quite resilient to their condition, while obese young adults appear to have poorer self-reported QoL than either adolescents or older adults. In addition to other priority age-groups for obesity management (maternal and childhood), young adults with obesity should be prioritised for support.