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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Obesity and prevalence of chronic diseases in the 1999–2000 Italian National Health Survey

Stefano Calza1, Adriano Decarli2 and Monica Ferraroni3*

Author Affiliations

1 Section of Medical Statistics and Biometry, Department of Biotechnologies and Biomedical Sciences, University of Brescia, Italy

2 Institute of Medical Statistics and Biometry "Giulio A. Maccacaro", University of Milan, Italy, and Statistics and Biometry Unit, Istituto Nazionale per lo Studio e la Cura dei Tumori, Milan, Italy

3 Department of Medicine, Surgery and Dentistry, Unit of Medical Statistics, University of Milan, Italy

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BMC Public Health 2008, 8:140  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-140

Published: 28 April 2008



There is consistent evidence that obesity is a correlate of mortality. Less information is available about the relation between body weight and the prevalence of diseases. We investigated the prevalence of overweight and obesity and their relationship with 14 groups of chronic diseases in a Mediterranean population using data from the Italian National Survey collected in 1999–2000.


A sample of 52,300 families was randomly selected using a complex stratified multistage design, within strata of geographical areas, municipalities, and household sizes, to produce estimates representative of the whole Italian population. Data were collected by civil servants both with an interview and a self-reported questionnaire.


The present study documents an increase in the prevalence of overweight among Italian adults in the last decades and an increased prevalence of several chronic conditions in obese or overweight individuals. A general pattern of a positive association between excess weight and chronic disease was observed for both sexes. The ratio of the prevalences of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases was higher in obese versus normal-weight individuals in the age group under 45 years.


To reduce the prevalence of chronic diseases a policy promoting a healthier individual lifestyle is becoming more and more desirable.