In 2014, one European out of two was overweight or obese. Certain countries are more affected than others. For example, in the United Kingdom, 55% of the population is overweight and in France, 45.5%. The senior population has the highest rate of overweight people.
Seniors are more affected by weight gain than the rest of the population.2/3 of 65 to 75-year-olds suffer from it, of which 44% are overweight and 22% obese. As this phenomenon is increasingly widespread, the people concerned don’t necessarily realize that they’ve put on weight. 39% of French people aged 50 to 75 and 45% of Germans and Britons admitted being overweight in 2017, but actual figures are higher.
Men are more often overweight than women: 57.3% of men against 43.7% of women in the European Union. This difference increases up to the age of 35 to 44 (21 points’ difference between men and women) and then decreases, down to 7 points over the age of 75.
Sedentary Lifestyle and Increasingly Richer Diet
Overall, the sedentary lifestyle is the cause of weight gain in the European population. It leads to a reduction in the muscle mass and therefore in energy requirements. Still, the population hasn’t adapted its diet by reducing the intake, and consumes food that is increasingly richer: industrial food, TV dinners, soda, etc.
The current baby boomers, who were born after World War II, have grown up in an era when eating habits and diets have seen deep transformation: end of rationing, mass meat production, importing of new ingredients, generalization of snacking, increase in the number of fast-food restaurants, etc. These fundamental changes have had consequences on their health with a general increase in BMI.
As they get older, people are exposed to issues that may increase the risk of weight gain. For example, as joints become painful, due to arthrosis or osteoporosis, mobility may be impacted. Because there are in pain, people stop certain physical activities (Climbing stairs, going for a stroll, taking short walks), without changing their eating habits accordingly, which leads to putting on weight. Generally speaking, the number of calories the body needs reduces with age, while nutritional requirements increase (calcium, proteins, etc.). Individuals do not necessarily adapt their diets to this modification, which may lead to weight gain.
Additionally, certain medicated treatments lead to weight gain, as do most antipsychotics and antidepressants. Over the age of 70, one French person out of two takes psychotropics.
Harmful Effects of Weight Gain on Health
Generally speaking, the risk of mortality connected to overweight among people age 55 and over increase for people whose BMI exceeds 30.
Overweight is connected to a higher risk of developing other diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and a number of cancers (Colorectal, breast, pancreas cancers). This excessive weight also promotes arthrosis thereby reducing people’s mobility.
Beyond the consequences on the health of overweight and obesity, people increasingly suffer from stigmatization, also called body shaming. Overweight is often looked down upon by the public at large who consider that the people concerned are the only one responsible for their conditions. This leads to remarks and judgement that have a negative impact on image and self-esteem.
In view of the prevalence of overweight and obesity among seniors, and the potential consequences in terms of diseases, physical and psychological well-being, and social support needed for older people, one can measure how important it is to deal with this health issue. However, this support must rely on prevention at a younger age because slimming diets among older people may have serious consequences, with risks of nutrient deficiencies.
Source : Seniosphère Conseil