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01.12.2017 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2017 Open Access

BMC Public Health 1/2017

Obesity, change of body mass index and subsequent physical and mental health functioning: a 12-year follow-up study among ageing employees

BMC Public Health > Ausgabe 1/2017
Anna Svärd, Jouni Lahti, Eira Roos, Ossi Rahkonen, Eero Lahelma, Tea Lallukka, Minna Mänty
Wichtige Hinweise
The original version of this article has been revised to correct parameters for the data in the tables.
A correction to this article is available online at https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s12889-017-4828-0.



Studies suggest an association between weight change and subsequent poor physical health functioning, whereas the association with mental health functioning is inconsistent. We aimed to examine whether obesity and change of body mass index among normal weight, overweight and obese women and men associate with changes in physical and mental health functioning.


The Helsinki Health Study cohort includes Finnish municipal employees aged 40 to 60 in 2000–02 (phase 1, response rate 67%). Phase 2 mail survey (response rate 82%) took place in 2007 and phase 3 in 2012 (response rate 76%). This study included 5668 participants (82% women). Seven weight change categories were formed based on body mass index (BMI) (phase 1) and weight change (BMI change ≥5%) (phase 1–2). The Short Form 36 Health Survey (SF-36) measured physical and mental health functioning. The change in health functioning (phase 1–3) score was examined with repeated measures analyses. Covariates were age, sociodemographic factors, health behaviours, and somatic ill-health.


Weight gain was common among women (34%) and men (25%). Weight-gaining normal weight (−1.3 points), overweight (−1.3 points) and obese (−3.6 points) women showed a greater decline in physical component summary scores than weight-maintaining normal weight women. Among weight-maintainers, only obese (−1.8 points) women showed a greater decline than weight-maintaining normal weight women. The associations were similar, but statistically non-significant for obese men. No statistically significant differences in the change in mental health functioning occurred.


Preventing weight gain likely helps maintaining good physical health functioning and work ability.
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