Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Impact of obesity on life expectancy among different European countries: secondary analysis of population-level data over the 1975–2012 period
  1. Nikoletta Vidra1,
  2. Sergi Trias-Llimós1,2,
  3. Fanny Janssen3
  1. 1 Population Research Centre, Faculty of Spatial Sciences, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
  2. 2 Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  3. 3 Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute, The Hague, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Dr Nikoletta Vidra; n.vidra{at}


Objective This study assesses the impact of obesity on life expectancy for 26 European national populations and the USA over the 1975–2012 period.

Design Secondary analysis of population-level obesity and mortality data.

Setting European countries, namely Austria, Belarus, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Russian Federation, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine and the UK; and the USA.

Participants National populations aged 18–100 years, by sex.

Measurements Using data by age and sex, we calculated obesity-attributable mortality by multiplying all-cause mortality (Human Mortality Database) with obesity-attributable mortality fractions (OAMFs). OAMFs were obtained by applying the weighted sum method to obesity prevalence data (non-communicable diseases (NCD) Risk Factor Collaboration) and European relative risks (Dynamic Modeling for Health Impact Assessment (DYNAMO- HIA)). We estimated potential gains in life expectancy (PGLE) at birth by eliminating obesity-attributable mortality from all-cause mortality using associated single-decrement life tables.

Results In the 26 European countries in 2012, PGLE due to obesity ranged from 0.86 to 1.67 years among men, and from 0.66 to 1.54 years among women. In all countries, PGLE increased over time, with an average annual increase of 2.68% among men and 1.33% among women. Among women in Denmark, Switzerland, and Central and Eastern European countries, the increase in PGLE levelled off after 1995. Without obesity, the average increase in life expectancy between 1975 and 2012 would have been 0.78 years higher among men and 0.30 years higher among women.

Conclusions Obesity was proven to have an impact on both life expectancy levels and trends in Europe. The differences found in this impact between countries and the sexes can be linked to contextual factors, as well as to differences in people’s ability and capacity to adopt healthier lifestyles.

  • epidemiology
  • public health

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made. See:

View Full Text

Statistics from


  • Contributors NV contributed to the conception and design of the work; to the acquisition, analysis and interpretation of data for the work; drafted and revised the work critically for important intellectual content; approved the final version of the work to be published; and agrees to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved. ST-L contributed to the analysis and interpretation of data for the work; revised critically the final draft for important intellectual content; approved the final version of the work to be published. FJ contributed to the conception and design of the work; contributed to the interpretation of data for the work; revised the work critically for important intellectual content; approved the final version of the work to be published.

  • Funding This work was funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) in connection with the research programme ’Smoking, alcohol, and obesity, ingredients for improved and robust mortality projections', grant no 452-13-001 (see

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement Obesity prevalence data can be obtained from NCD Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC) ( All-cause mortality and exposure population data can be obtained from the Human Mortality Database (

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.