Obesity is no less injurious to health than smoking, says a recent study.

Researchers from Columbia University and The City College of New York calculate that the Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) lost due to obesity is now equal to, if not greater than, those lost due to smoking, both modifiable risk factors.

QALYs use preference-based measurements of Health-Related Quality of Life (HRQOL) which allow a person to state a relative preference for a given health outcome.

Since one person may value a particular outcome differently than another, these measures capture how each respondent views his or her own quality of life.

The 1993-2008 Behavioural Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), the largest ongoing state-based health survey of US adults, has conducted interviews of more than 3.5 million individuals.

This survey, conducted by Haomiao Jia and Erica I. Lubetkin, includes a set of questions that measures HRQOL, asking about recent poor health days and tracking overall physical and mental health of the population.

The authors analysed these data and converted the measures to QALYs lost due to smoking and obesity, said a Columbia release.

From 1993 to 2008, when the proportion of smokers among US adults declined 18.5 percent, the proportion of obese people increased 85 percent. Smoking had a bigger impact on deaths while obesity had a bigger impact on illness.

These findings are slated for publication in the February issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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