“The NHIS is like a ‘selfie’ for the U.S. because it is a snapshot of health behaviors of people from every type of background,” said Muntasir Masum, postdoctoral scholar at the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center at Penn State. “We expected to see a link between obesity and mortality related to alcoholism, and we were surprised to see that the link was especially pronounced for people with underweight who drink excessively.”
The CDC defines underweight as having a body mass index (BMI) of less than 18.5 using the calculation of person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of their height in meters. According to the CDC, BMI is a screening tool, but it does not diagnose “body fatness or the health of an individual.”
Further research is needed into how having underweight could contribute to mortality in people who drink excessively. Masum suggested that multiple factors could be at play, such as how people handle stress and whether they have co-occurring health issues or nutritional deficiencies.
“I hope these findings encourage people to eliminate risks that may lead to a life-or-death situation,” said Masum.