Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login

Forecasting the Effects of Obesity and Smoking on U.S. Life Expectancy


Author Info

  • Rosen, Allison B.
  • Stewart, Susan T.
  • Cutler, David M.
Registered author(s):


    Background: While increases in obesity over the past 30 years have adversely affected population health, there have been concomitant improvements due to reductions in smoking. Better understanding of the joint effects of these trends on longevity and quality of life will help policymakers target resources more efficiently. Methods: For each year from 2005 to 2020, we forecast life expectancy and qualityadjusted life expectancy for a representative 18 year old, assuming a continuation of past trends in smoking from the National Health Interview Survey (1978-79, 1990-91 and 2004-06), and past trends in body-mass index (BMI) from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1971-75, 1998-1994, and 2003-06). The 2003 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey was used to examine the effects of smoking and BMI on health-related quality of life. Results: The negative effects of increasing BMI overwhelmed the positive effects of declines in smoking in multiple scenarios. In the base case, increases in the remaining life expectancy of a typical 18 year old are held back by 0.71 years or 0.91 quality-adjusted years between 2005 and 2020. If all U.S. adults became normal weight non-smokers by 2020, LE is forecast to increase by 3.76 life years or 5.16 quality-adjusted years. Conclusions: If past obesity trends continue unchecked, the negative impact on U.S. population health is forecast to overtake the positive effect from declining smoking rates, which could erode the pattern of steady gains in health experienced since early in the 20th century.

    Download Info

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Harvard University Department of Economics in its series Scholarly Articles with number 5344184.

    as in new window
    Date of creation: 2009
    Date of revision:
    Publication status: Published in The New England Journal of Medicine
    Handle: RePEc:hrv:faseco:5344184

    Contact details of provider:
    Postal: Littauer Center, Cambridge, MA 02138
    Phone: 617-495-2144
    Fax: 617-495-7730
    Web page:
    More information through EDIRC

    Related research



    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as in new window

    Cited by:
    1. Dora Costa, 2013. "Health and the Economy in the United States, from 1750 to the Present," NBER Working Papers 19685, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Zheng, Hui & Yang, Yang, 2012. "Population heterogeneity in the impact of body weight on mortality," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(6), pages 990-996.
    3. Ljungvall, Åsa & Zimmerman, Frederick J., 2012. "Bigger bodies: Long-term trends and disparities in obesity and body-mass index among U.S. adults, 1960–2008," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(1), pages 109-119.
    4. Cutler, David M. & Lange, Fabian & Meara, Ellen & Richards-Shubik, Seth & Ruhm, Christopher J., 2011. "Rising educational gradients in mortality: The role of behavioral risk factors," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(6), pages 1174-1187.
    5. Aysit Tansel & Deniz Karaoglan, 2014. "Health Behaviors and Education in Turkey," ERC Working Papers 1406, ERC - Economic Research Center, Middle East Technical University, revised Jun 2014.


    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.


    Access and download statistics


    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:hrv:faseco:5344184. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Ben Steinberg).

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.