A Pile Up of Obesity-Related Health Risks

Car crashes more likely to kill those who are obese, according to study

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Heart disease, diabetes, gallbladder disease... There are a number of deathly health risks obese individuals face. But now you can add car wrecks to the list.

Chances of dying from a severe car crash are greater if you're obese, according to a new study from the University of Buffalo School of Medicine.

"The severity and patterns of crash injuries depend on a complex interaction of biomechanical factors, including deceleration velocity at impact, seat belt and air bag use, vehicle type and weight, and type of impact," said lead study author Dietrich Jehle, MD, professor of emergency medicine at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and at Erie County Medical Center. "But the effect of body mass on crash outcome has not been previously evaluated in databases of adequate size or controlled for some of these confounding factors."

The study concluded that larger crash-test dummies representing obese individuals in addition to the normal-weight variety would improve vehicle safety features and decrease these mortalities.

Drivers in the study, taken from data representing 155,584 drivers in severe motor crashes, were grouped according to body mass index (BMI) in six categories: underweight, normal, overweight, slightly obese, moderately obese and morbidly obese. Both obese male and obese female drivers statistically represented significant increases in death when compared with normal-weight drivers.

"The rate of obesity is continuing to rise, so is it imperative that car designs are modified to protect the obese population, and that crash tests are done using a full range of dummy sizes," Jehle said.

Interestingly, normal weight and underweight drivers were more likely to die than overweight drivers.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 22, 2010
Last Updated:
December 22, 2010