Overweight and obesity in women with physical disabilities: Associations with demographic and disability characteristics and secondary conditions.

BACKGROUND:  This cross-sectional study was designed to examine weight in association with demographic and disability characteristics and secondary conditions in a sample of community living women with physical disabilities.

METHODS:  443 predominantly ethnic minority women with physical disabilities were recruited through public and private health clinics and community organizations. They completed questionnaires including measures of body mass index and a health conditions checklist.

RESULTS:  Data showed that nearly three-quarters of the sample were overweight (26.6%) or obese (47.6%) with 14% extremely obese. Obesity was highest among middle aged women (aged 45-54, 52.7%; aged 55-64, 52.5%; compared to aged 18-44, 37.8%; or aged ≥65, 39.1%). Black (84.0%) and Hispanic women (83.8%) were more likely to be overweight or obese compared to non-Hispanic white women (56.7%). Women with joint and connective tissue diseases and women with more extensive functional limitations were more likely to have excess weight. Disability factors were more strongly associated with excess weight than demographic factors other than age. Weight classification was significantly related to whether or not the women had ever had diabetes or blood pressure problems.  Diabetes was reported 4 times as often as among women in general (36.3% versus 8.9%), and hypertension nearly twice as often (56.2% versus 30.9%).

CONCLUSIONS:  These findings indicate extremely high rates of overweight and obesity in women with physical disabilities, a growing population greatly in need of effective weight management interventions. Overweight and obesity in combination with disability in women was associated with disproportionately high rates of diabetes and hypertension.