Now it turns out that in addition to all of the other health risks of being overweight we have to worry about, we are also in greater danger in car crashes. At least for us men.
Men tend to carry a larger proportion of their mass in the upper body than do women. The purpose of this study, published this week in PLoS Medicine, was to investigate whether this translates into a higher proportion of injury in this area as well. The study focused on frontal collisions and separated the data by sex to obtain a higher level of detail than in previous studies. It also incorporated both real-world and computer modelled data in an effort to better understand the factors relating BMI and injury distribution.
The study did indeed find that there is a higher chance of injury and of serious injury with increasing BMI as shown in the graphs below.
As these graphs show women only see a very slight increase in injury the further up the BMI ladder they climb.While the relation isn’t especially well understood this is consistent with the more distributed weight gain that women experience. It would seem that the higher center of gravity of males may be the significant factor in these situations.
Curiously the researchers found a U-shaped correlation between BMI and serious abdominal injury for women, in other words women saw an increased risk at both high and low BMI. I guess all those supermodels should be very careful on the roads.
These results may lead to increased safety features in cars to account for the different body types of drivers. We should also remember that high BMI is only a proxy for obesity and there will always be a wide variety of body shapes in the population.
Zhu, S., Kim, J., Ma, X., Shih, A., Laud, P., Pintar, F., Shen, W., Heymsfield, S., & Allison, D. (2010). BMI and Risk of Serious Upper Body Injury Following Motor Vehicle Crashes: Concordance of Real-World and Computer-Simulated Observations PLoS Medicine, 7 (3) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000250
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