Life-long body mass index trajectories and mortality in two generations

Hui Zheng, Paola Echave, Neil Mehta, Mikko Myrskylä

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: To identify life-long body mass index (BMI) trajectories across two related generations and estimate their associated mortality risks and population attributable deaths. Methods: We use prospective cohort data from the Framingham Heart Study (1948–2011) original (4576 individuals, 3913 deaths) and offspring (3753 individuals, 967 deaths) cohorts and latent trajectory models to model BMI trajectories from age 31 to 80 years. Survival models are used to estimate trajectory-specific mortality risk. Results: We define seven BMI trajectories among original cohort and six among offspring cohort. Among original cohort, people who are normal weight at age 31 years and gradually move to overweight status in middle or later adulthood have the lowest mortality risk even compared to those who maintain normal weight throughout adulthood, followed by overweight stable, lower level of normal weight, overweight downward, class I obese upward, and class II/III upward trajectories. Mortality risks associated with obesity trajectories have declined across cohorts, while the prevalence of high-risk trajectories has increased. Conclusions: The mortality impact of weight gain depends on an individual's BMI trajectory. Population attributable deaths associated with unhealthy weight trajectories have grown over generations because the prevalence has increased, offsetting the decline in trajectory-specific mortality risks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-25
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of Epidemiology
StatePublished - Apr 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Body mass index trajectories
  • Cohort
  • Framingham Heart Study
  • Mortality
  • Obesity
  • United States

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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