Longevity researcher S. Jay Olshansky, PhD, of the University of Illinois at Chicago predicts that within 50 years obesity will shorten the average life span by at least 2 to 5 years. His report, published in a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, asserts that the impact of obesity on life expectancy could be greater than that of cancer or heart disease and that this effect may actually inadvertently help the Social Security crisis. Opponents of Dr. Olshansky's theory think that he does not account for medical advances. In fact, the Social Security Administration predicts life expectancy to increase to 100 in about 60 years. Although Dr. Olshansky's critics may question his calculations and claim that his report is "one-sided," they agree with his message that policy makers need to take notice of the alarming trends in obesity rates. US longevity rates currently fall behind those of 20 other developed countries.
Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.