New study about prevalence and trends of overweight and obesity amongst the older population in ten European countries

Concerns for overweight and obesity are present throughout the world, and the part of the older population that is affected is considered to be high. Obesity and overweight increase the risk of several diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and coronary heart disease, and are also associated with osteoarthritis, asthma and depression.

Since overweigh and obesity are common in many economically developed countries, it is important to monitor the development of these conditions over time in order to assess interventions aimed at preventing and lessening the burden for those who are affected.

A recently published study set out to provide current information about the prevalence and development over time, of overweight and obesity among adults, aged 50 years and older, in ten European countries. To do so, the researchers behind the study analyzed data from the first, second, fourth and fifth waves of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). Body mass index (BMI) measures were calculated from self-reported height and weight in accordance with the World Health Organization’s guidelines.

The results from the study showed that the general prevalence of overweight has remained at a rather stable level around 60% between the years 2005 and 2013, while the prevalence of obesity has increased from 17.5% to 19.2% during the same time period. The highest prevalence of overweight and obesity were found in Spain, Germany and Austria. Spain was also the only country in which the prevalence of both overweight and obesity decreased between 2005 and 2013, and Italy was the only country in which the prevalence of overweight deceased. The study also showed that the prevalence of overweight increased between the years 2005 and 2013 for respondents in the age group 80 years and older while it decreased for respondents in the age group 60 to 69 years. The prevalence of obesity increased for respondents in the age groups 60 to 69 years and 70 to 79 years. The prevalence of overweight decreased slightly among women during the studied time period while it remained at a stable level among men. The prevalence of obesity on the other hand, increased among men during the time period while it remained unchanged among women.

To sum up, the findings show that the prevalence of overweight and obesity is high among the older population in the ten European countries studied. The researchers behind the study emphasize that overweight and obesity are major public health concerns to which attention needs to be paid. They stress the need for developing medical management approaches and public-health policies, effective healthy lifestyle programs, as well as enhancing health literacy concerning the importance of maintaining a healthy weight.

The text above is based on the publication:

Peralta, M., Ramos, M., Lipert, A., Martins, J. and A. Marques. 2018. Prevalence and trends of overweight and obesity in older adults from 10 European countries from 2005 to 2013. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health 46: 522–529. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1403494818764810.

New study about loneliness among elderly in Europe

Loneliness can be an unpleasant and distressful emotional state when an individual perceives an imbalance between the actual amount of social relationships and contacts and the amount he or she would wish for. Feelings of loneliness has been portrayed as a major health, well-being and mortality risk factor in previous psychological and sociological research. Loneliness can pose a health burden that is equivalent to several risky behaviors related to health such as smoking, alcohol and physical inactivity, especially among older individuals. While there are studies that have focused on loneliness amongst older adults in various contexts, there are limited evidence on the demographic, health and social patterns of loneliness from a cross-national perspective.

It is essential to identify the factors that are related to loneliness in order to recognize individuals who are at an increased risk of feeling lonely, and to be able to develop strategies to alleviate loneliness. This was the motivation behind a new study aimed at examining the prevalence of loneliness in a nationally representative sample of European older adults (65 years of age and older). The study was based on the first wave of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) that took place between 2004 and 2005 in eleven European countries.

The study showed that women were more likely to feel lonely most of or some of the time as compared to men, and feelings of loneliness seemed to be more common amongst the older ages. The prevalence of loneliness differed significantly between households with different income levels as well as between individuals with different educational attainment levels, with less affluent and less educated individuals being more likely to report frequent feelings of loneliness. The proportion of individuals who declared feeling lonely most of the time compared to none of the time was significantly higher among southern Europeans relative to their Northern counterparts. The proportion of those who reported experiencing frequent feelings of loneliness was also significantly greater among individuals suffering from more than one severe health condition as compared to their healthy counterparts. Furthermore, loneliness was significantly more frequently experienced by individuals who were widowed, whose children had recently moved out of the parental home, those who did not have any children and those who were living without a partner or a spouse.

Based on the findings from the study, the authors of the article suggest that loneliness among older adult Europeans is associated with age-specific adverse health conditions, stressful life events and social isolation indicators. They argue that health and social professionals should consider the importance of loneliness when doing health and psychological assessments. The issue is equally important for health and social policy makers involved in the development of interventions aimed at reducing levels of loneliness to improve well-being and quality of life in older life.

The text above is based on the publication:

Vozikaki, M., Papadaki, A., Linardakis, M., and A. Philalithis. 2018. Loneliness among older European adults: Results from the survey of health, aging and retirement in Europe. Journal of Public Health: 1-12. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10389-018-0916-6