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Weight Histories and Mortality Among Finnish Adults: The Role of Duration and Peak Body Mass Index

Mehta, Neil K.a; Stenholm, Sarib,c; Elo, Irma T.d; Aromaa, Arpob; Heliövaara, Markkub; Koskinen, Seppob

doi: 10.1097/EDE.0000000000000147
Body Mass Index

Background: Many studies use information on weight histories to examine the association between body weight and mortality. A recent paper in Epidemiology (2013;25:707–710) developed a typology of the most common weight-history specifications.

Methods: We use data from a sample of Finnish adults to explore the associations of body weight and mortality, using existing specifications and also peak body mass index (BMI), a new specification.

Results: We confirm earlier findings that longer time in a high BMI state is predictive of mortality. Peak BMI (the highest BMI attained in life or available in the data) is also positively associated with mortality.

Conclusions: The specifications of duration in a high BMI state and peak BMI are both valuable for understanding the relationship between lifetime weight dynamics and mortality. The collection of information on peak body weight may be useful when collection of more detailed weight histories is not feasible.

Supplemental Digital Content is available in the text.

From the aEmory University, Hubert Department of Global Health, Rollins School of Public Health, Atlanta, GA; bNational Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), Department of Health, Functional Capacity and Welfare, Turku/Helsinki, Finland; cUniversity of Turku, Department of Public Health, Turku, Finland; and dUniversity of Pennsylvania, Population Studies Center, Philadelphia, PA.

Submitted 28 July 2013; accepted 18 February 2014.

Supported by a National Institute of Aging Grant (R01AG040212). S.S. was supported by the Academy of Finland (273850 and 264944).

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Correspondence: Neil K. Mehta, Emory University, Hubert Department of Global Health, Rollins School of Public Health, 1518 Clifton Road, CNR 7035, Atlanta, GA 30033. E-mail:

© 2014 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc