Obese people are less likely to use their seatbelts than the rest of the population, according to a new study by U.S. researchers released on Wednesday.
The connection was made by Vanderbilt University psychologist David Schlundt and his colleagues at Meharry Medical College in Tennessee.
"We found that when weight goes up, seatbelt use goes down," Schlundt said. "This is an additional public health problem associated with obesity that was not on the radar screen."
"We hope these new findings will help promote awareness campaigns to encourage people to use their seatbelts and that additional resources, like seatbelt extenders, will be made more readily available." the release quoted Schlundt as saying.
The study result showed that approximately 30 percent of individuals with a body mass index (BMI) -- kilograms per meter squared -- that qualified them as overweight, obese or extremely obese reported not using a seatbelt, compared to approximately 20 percent of the average population, according to the release.
Furthermore, seatbelt use declined as BMI increased, with approximately 55 percent of overweight individuals reporting they did not use a seatbelt.
Schlundt and his co-authors suggest that a reason why people with a high BMI do not use seatbelts is because doing so is uncomfortable.
"Efforts should be made to raise public awareness about seatbelt extender availability, and manufacturers not offering seatbelt extenders should be encouraged, or required, to make them available," they wrote.
"Engineering solutions such as seatbelts with wider, more cushioned bands and greater adjustability may also be helpful by making seatbelts more comfortable for overweight and obese persons."
Seatbelt usage reduces automobile crash-related deaths and injuries by at least 50 percent.
(Xinhua News Agency January 3, 2008)