Decades of research have established a strong connection between obesity and a wide range of physical and emotional problems. However, in recent years, a number of studies have shown that even among otherwise healthy adults, those who are obese are much more likely to suffer from physical pain on a daily basis.

According to a Jan. 26 ScienceDaily article, a study of more that one million adults revealed that those whose body mass index put them in the “obese” category were much more likely to report higher rates of pain than were subjects who weighed less.  The study, which consisted of an analysis of phone interviews conducted over a two-year period, was conducted by Arthur A. Stone, PhD., and Joan E. Broderick, Ph.D., both from Stony Brook University:

  • Sixty three percent of the 1,010,762 people who responded to the survey were classified as overweight (38 percent) or obese (25 percent).
  • Obese respondents were further classified into one of three obesity levels as defined by the World Health Organization. In comparison to individuals with low to normal weight, the overweight group reported 20 percent higher rates of pain.
  • The percent increase of reported pain in comparison to the normal weight group grew rapidly in the obese groups: 68 percent higher for Obese 1 group, 136 percent higher for Obese 2 group, and 254 percent higher for Obese 3 group.

The Stony Brook study, which is titled “Obesity and Pain Are Associated in the United States,” was published Jan. 19 on the website of the journal Obesity.

Stone and Broderick are not the only researchers to have documented the connection between obesity and pain. A March 2012 statistical brief by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) reported that an analysis of data from 2009 revealed that 68.8%  of obese adults and more than 68% of  extremely obese adults suffer from joint pain.

For the purposes of the AHRQ report, “obesity” was defined as having a body mass index (BMI) from 30 to 39.9. Individuals with a BMI of 40 or above were put into the “extremely obese” category.

The AHRQ report also indicated that the individuals who were considered to be suffering from joint pain were those who “reported to have pain, aching, stiffness, or swelling around a joint in the past 12 months or reported having ever been told by a doctor or other health professional that they had osteoarthritis or arthritis not specified.”