Physical impairment and body weight history in postmenopausal women: the Women's Health Initiative

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Quantitative Health Sciences; Department of Medicine, Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine; UMass Worcester Prevention Research Center

Publication Date


Document Type



Translational Medical Research | Women's Health


OBJECTIVE: To examine whether weight history and weight transitions over adult lifespan contribute to physical impairment among postmenopausal women.

DESIGN: BMI categories were calculated among postmenopausal women who reported their weight and height at age 18 years. Multiple-variable logistic regression was used to determine the association between BMI at age 18 years and BMI transitions over adulthood on severe physical impairment (SPI), defined as scoring < 60 on the Physical Functioning subscale of the Rand thirty-six-item Short-Form Health Survey.

SETTING: Participants were part of the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study (WHI OS), where participants' health was followed over time via questionnaires and clinical assessments.

SUBJECTS: Postmenopausal women (n 76 016; mean age 63.5 (sd 7.3) years).

RESULTS: Women with overweight (BMI=25.0-29.9 kg/m2) or obesity (BMI > /=30.0 kg/m2) at 18 years had greater odds (OR (95 % CI)) of SPI (1.51 (1.35, 1.69) and 2.14 (1.72, 2.65), respectively) than normal-weight (BMI=18.5-24.9 kg/m2) counterparts. Transitions from normal weight to overweight/obese or to underweight (BMI < 18.5 kg/m2) were associated with greater odds of SPI (1.97 (1.84, 2.11) and 1.35 (1.06, 1.71), respectively) compared with weight stability. Shifting from underweight to overweight/obese also had increased odds of SPI (1.52 (1.11, 2.09)). Overweight/obese to normal BMI transitions resulted in a reduced SPI odds (0.52 (0.39, 0.71)).

CONCLUSIONS: Higher weight history and transitions into higher weight classes were associated with higher likelihood of SPI, while transitioning into lower weight classes for those with overweight/obesity was protective among postmenopausal women.


UMCCTS funding, BMI, Body weight, Disability, Physical function, Physical impairment, Weight change

DOI of Published Version



Public Health Nutr. 2016 Jun 8:1-9. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Public health nutrition

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Link to Article in PubMed

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