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PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e48528. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0048528. Epub 2012 Oct 31.

Waist circumference and abdominal obesity among older adults: patterns, prevalence and trends.

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Institute of Health & Society, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom.



To describe the patterns and trends in waist circumference and abdominal obesity for those aged 70-89 contrasting the standard and new age-related cut-points, and to investigate how they vary with time, age and educational level.


The subjects were 7129 men and 9244 women aged 70-89 years who participated in the Health Survey for England during 1993-2010. The outcome measures were the percentiles of waist circumference and standard and new indicators of abdominal obesity based on waist circumference. Binomial and quantile regression were used to investigate the relationship with key explanatory variables.


The distribution of waist circumference among community-dwelling older adults in England has shifted upwards since 1993 (an increase in median of 4.5 cm in men and 5.1 cm in women). The prevalence of abdominal obesity has increased, while those in the low-risk group have decreased. Abdominal obesity was higher in those aged 70-79 compared to 80-89, and in those who left education earlier. The prevalence of abdominal obesity varies considerably with new and standard cut-points, which makes it impractical to use the new ones on a population that includes subjects across the adult age range.


Obesity is increasing among the elderly, but more work is needed on devising age-appropriate indicators of high risk based on waist circumference.

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