A new study gives motorists even more reason to watch their diet and get proper exercise. The research found people who are obese have a greater chance of dying in a car crash than do those with a “normal” body mass index (BMI).
Morbidly obese: 80 percent more crash fatalities
The study, published Jan. 21 in Emergency Medicine Journal, found that people with a BMI between 30 and 34.9 are 21 percent more likely to perish in a car crash than their skinnier friends. Those whose BMI was between 35 and 39.9 were 51 percent more likely to die in a road accident. And those with a BMI higher than 40 were 80 percent more likely to not make it through a bad crash.
BMI is a measure of body mass that takes height and weight into consideration. A person of so-called “normal” weight has a BMI between from 18.5 and 24.9. A person with a BMI of 25 and 29.9 is considered “overweight.” An “obese” person has a BMI between 30 and 39.9. The “morbidly obese” have a BMI over 40.
Methodology and findings of study
The study used data from 3,400 car crashes that involved 6,806 motorists in the U.S. The accidents all occurred between 1996 and 2008. The data looked at pairs of drivers operating similar-sized cars that were in relatively analogous crashes and with similar response times from emergency personnel.
Of the selected study cases, 46 percent were of “normal weight,” 33 percent were “overweight,” and 18 percent were “obese.” Those with a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 had the least percentage of fatalities of any of the groups.
Underweight drivers also fared less well that those classified as “normal weight,” but only for men.
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Seat belts make the difference
The report admits that factors like cardiovascular disease, more common in the obese, may play a part in the findings. However, the main reason it found for increased fatalities with increased weight is the way that seat belts respond to softer, or more fatty, flesh. The belts contract more slowly after the impact, and therefore take longer to restrain the driver, providing less protection.
Other related studies
The study does not stand alone in its findings. Another study in 2010 also found that people considered medically “obese” have a higher chance of being killed in a car wreck than those with lower BMIs.
Another recent study by Dr. Katherine M. Flegal of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that people who are overweight may live longer than those with BMIs below 25. However, it also found that mortality rates increase quickly with a “morbidly obese” BMI of 35 or greater.
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