Diet, Featured, Metabolic syndrome, Obesity

18-24 year olds found to be most at risk for obesity

The researchers found that people between the ages of 18 and 24 were at the greatest risk of gaining weight and becoming obese. When young adults (18-24) were compared to the oldest age group (65-74), young adults were 4-6 times more likely to move up in BMI category within 10 years.

Researchers from various universities across England and Germany have utilized electronic health records from 400 different primary care practices to determine which age groups are most susceptible to suffering from obesity. Their findings reported that young adults aged 18-24 had a substantially higher risk of obesity compared to the other age groups tested. 

In the recently published study, the researchers from UCL (University College London), the University of Cambridge, and Berlin Institute of Health at Charité –Universitätsmedizin Berlin (BIH) analyzed thousands of health records, focusing on age-related risk factors influencing obesity. This analysis was conducted to assist in clarifying the uncertainties revolving around the relationship between obesity risk and age to help guide future obesity prevention policies. 

The researchers found that individuals aged 18-24 years old were associated with the highest risk of gaining weight and potentially becoming obese. The overweight-to-obesity risk percentage was found to decrease as the age of the test population increased. For ages 18-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55-64 and 65-74, the associated risks were 40%, 25%, 22%, 18%, 13% and 10%, respectively. When comparing the youngest group tested (18-24) against the oldest age group (65-74), young adults were 4-6 times higher to move up in the BMI category within 10 years. Another important finding was the fact that those aged 35 to 54 years of age had the highest risk of not losing weight. 

“Our results show clearly that age is the most important socio-demographic factor for BMI change. Young people aged 18 to 24 have the highest risk of BMI gain, compared to older people,” said lead author Dr. Michail Katsoulis.

The team of researchers used data from 400 different care practices consisting of participants from various demographics, ranging in ages from 18-74 years old. These participants had BMI and weight measurements taken from 1998 to 2016. The researchers calculated the changes in BMI from the checkmarks of one year, five years, and ten years, and the probability of moving between BMI classifications was determined from this data.

“Calculating personal risk of transitioning to a higher weight category is important as the Covid-19 pandemic collides with the obesity pandemic,” said co-author Harry Hemingway, a professor at UCL Institute of Health Informatics and BIH Fellow. “People are exercising less and finding it harder to eat healthy diets during lockdowns.”

The findings of this study contribute to the growing body of obesity-related research by highlighting what specific age groups might be best for future policies to target. The paper’s authors suggest that with the correlation between age and obesity now determined, further research should focus on the psychological mechanisms behind this relationship.


The study was published in The Lancet, on September 2nd, 2021.

Abstract. We included 2 092 260 eligible individuals with more than 9 million BMI measurements in our study. Young adult age was the strongest risk factor for weight gain at 1, 5, and 10 years of follow-up. Compared with the oldest age group (65–74 years), adults in the youngest age group (18–24 years) had the highest OR (4·22 [95% CI 3·86–4·62]) and greatest absolute risk (37% vs 24%) of transitioning from normal weight to overweight or obesity at 10 years. Likewise, adults in the youngest age group with overweight or obesity at baseline were also at highest risk to transition to a higher BMI category; OR 4·60 (4·06–5·22) and absolute risk (42% vs 18%) of transitioning from overweight to class 1 and 2 obesity, and OR 5·87 (5·23–6·59) and absolute risk (22% vs 5%) of transitioning from class 1 and 2 obesity to class 3 obesity. Other demographic factors were consistently less strongly associated with these transitions; for example, the OR of transitioning from normal weight to overweight or obesity in people living in the most socially deprived versus least deprived areas was 1·23 (1·18–1·27), for men versus women was 1·12 (1·08–1·16), and for Black individuals versus White individuals was 1·13 (1·04–1·24). We provide an open access online risk calculator, and present high-resolution obesity risk charts over a 1-year, 5-year, and 10-year follow-up period.

Katsoulis, Michail, et al. “Identifying Adults at High-Risk for Change in Weight and BMI in England: A Longitudinal, Large-Scale, POPULATION-BASED Cohort Study Using Electronic Health Records.” The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, 2021, doi:10.1016/s2213-8587(21)00207-2. 

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