People who are overweight have always had it tough. Obesity has been linked to a myriad of health problems ranging from asthma to heart disease to cancer, but there’s even more bad news out there ready to steal the breath away of the obese faster than three flights of stairs.
Moderately and morbidly obese people in a severe car accident are more likely to die than their thinner counter parts. According to a statistical study of fatal car accidents spanning five years, moderately obese people – those with a body mass index over 30 – are 21 percent more likely to die from injuries in an auto accident.
Morbidly obese – those with a BMI over 40 — face even bigger problems. They have a 56 percent increased risk of not surviving a severe crash.
The study’s lead author, Dietrich Jehle, MD, professor of emergency medicine at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, said in a news release that there are a number of factors that play a role in obese people dying after accidents.
“The severity and patterns of crash injuries depend on a complex interaction of bio-mechanical factors, including deceleration velocity at impact, seat belt and air bag use, vehicle type and weight, and type of impact,” said Jehle.
Unfortunately, cars are like clothes and one size does not fit all. Crash tests do not include obese people, though in recent years, car-makers have added testing for people of various sizes and ages.
“We also recommend that manufacturers design and test vehicle interiors with obese-sized dummies, which currently are not available, in addition to testing with the 50 percentile (BMI 24.3) male dummy,” he adds. “It would improve safety for the one-third of the U.S. population that is obese. For underweight and normal weight individuals, placing airbags within the seat belt also might be protective.”
One note of irony found in the study was that having just a little extra padding might be good. Underweight and normal weight people were found to be at a higher risk of dying in an accident than people who were slightly overweight, who had the highest rate of surviving.