Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Obesity kills in car crashes

The other day I came across an interesting article in an on-line medical journal I read that caught my eye. I don’t recall a mention on the news like I would have expected. Had it been mentioned it would have been headed something like “Another major health risk for obese males”.

The study published in the American Journal of Public Health looked at car crash fatalities (limited to drivers) and culled out information on obese individuals. It found that obese males were more likely than were other individuals to die as a result of the injuries they received in a car crash. This did not hold true for women, which they were at a loss to explain. The risk of death increased (as you might expect) with increased speed at the time of the crash, but what did seem surprising was that use (or non-use) of seatbelts and deployment of airbags did not impact the risk of death. They did mention that the study was not designed to separate out some of the factors that may have contributed to the death in addition to the fact that these individuals were obese. The other factors “kill” more as a complication of the obesity than the kinetics involved in the crash. Some of those factors that may have contributed to the deaths of these drivers include comorbidities (other medical problems related to or unrelated to their obesity), as well as emergency care and peri-operative and postoperative problems associated with their obesity.

The “bottom line”, however, is that obese men are more likely than other individuals to die when they are drivers in auto crashes. This should be listed among the other medical/death risks of obesity in men. Obese men ought to be made aware that this is yet another reason to loose weight, unless they want to arrive in my office earlier than they ought.

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