Obesity prevalence high in adults with ID

By Kelly Hsieh, PhD
Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Developmental Disabilities and Health
University of Illinois at Chicago

Compared with the general population, obesity is a significantly greater problem in adults with intellectual disabilities (ID). There is limited research on risk factors for obesity in people with ID.

What did you do in your research?
This study analyzed baseline data of the Longitudinal Health and Intellectual Disabilities study (LHIDS) to identify risk factors for obesity in adults with ID. A total of 1,450 participants were involved in the study (650 females, 800 males). Participants were asked about weight and height (to determine BMI), non-modifiable personal characteristics (i.e. sex, age, autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and mobility) as well as modifiable characteristics including medication use, physical activity, hours spent watching television, engagement in Special Olympics, dietary habits, smoking, alcohol intake, type of residence, and location of residence.

What did you find out?
Compared with the general population, adults with ID had a higher prevalence of obesity (38% vs. 28%) and women with ID were 1.8 times more likely to have morbid obesity. Modifiable factors such as taking medications that cause weight gain, not engaging in sufficient moderate physical activity, and increasing soda consumption were significantly associated with a higher risk of developing obesity.

What are the take-home messages?
The findings of this study confirm previous studies that adults with ID have higher rates of obesity compared with the general population. The prevention or reduction of obesity will require involvement from key stakeholders, including advocacy groups, caregivers, service providers, community support personnel, health professionals, and funding agencies. Providing a person-centered approach with supports is essential for adults with ID to effectively engage in a participatory action role of promoting a healthy lifestyle.

To learn more about these findings contact Sumithra Murthy or visit the Project Website.

Full Journal Article
Hsieh, K., Rimmer, J. H. & Heller, T. (2014). Obesity and associated factors in adults with intellectual disability. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 58(9), 851–863. doi: 10.1111/jir.12100