It is nearly impossible to live in the United States today without taking note of the extreme increase in the rate of obesity across the population. Today, over 39% of the adult population qualify as obese, as defined as a BMI of > 30. (This equates to a weight of approximately 186 lbs. for an individual who is 5’6″). Over 6% of the population are morbidly obese, with a BMI of > 40, which would correlate to a weight of 248 for that same 5’6″ individual. The increasing prevalence of obesity among adults is particularly striking when noting that it was only 33.7% a decade earlier.
Under SSR 19-2p, obesity is not a listed impairment with Social Security Administration, though the functional limitations of obesity alone or in combination with another impairment many medically equal a listing. Morbid obesity often precedes or coexists with severe medical impairments and is considered a risk factor for many others. Rates of diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, fatty liver, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (“GERD”) are some of the conditions that are best understood to be directly correlated with obesity. However, a wide variety of other diagnoses, including depression, osteoarthritis, gout, back pain, chronic fatigue and heart disease are also directly linked, and obesity is understood to be a risk factor for many cancers as well. Indeed, many conditions for which one might apply for disability could be improved or prevented through the maintenance of a healthy weight.
This does not mean that the fact of being obese will be considered a disqualifying factor when submitting a claim of disability. Indeed, evidence of morbid obesity can support a claim in combination with another impairment. The difficulty of losing weight and maintaining that weight loss in adulthood is well documented in the medical literature. But other medical conditions and their impact on the activities of daily living should be the focus of an application to request Social Security disability benefits.