Let’s Talk Morbidity

Despite their common Latin root, the words morbidity and mortality have different meanings, and here is a paragraph that illustrates the idea well:

A person with a morbidity may not live as long as someone who is healthy. However, morbidity doesn’t always mean you are in danger of dying right away. However, if an illness gets worse over time, it could raise your risk of mortality.

In fact, seven out of 10 top causes of death in the USA are chronic or long-term conditions; in other words, morbidities. Among them are cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic lower respiratory disease, diabetes, and kidney disease. Even if it does not immediately or directly kill a person, a morbidity makes life miserable, limited, and expensive.

Fate is not stingy about handing out morbidities, and a person can easily attain more than one. Then, each of those two or more co-existing morbidities is a comorbidity of the others.

Childhood obesity

Childhood obesity is definitely a morbidity that is often accompanied by one or more additional morbidities. Quite a lot of research is devoted to discovering which came first, in any particular case, but authorities are in agreement that no other condition a child might suffer from has ever been improved by obesity, and all children would be better off without it.

Among the things that try to kill us, obesity labors under a slight disadvantage in achieving that goal, because it is more preventable and more fixable than most other morbidities. But on the other hand, obesity holds great advantages as a potential killer for many reasons. For example, the factors that cause it, such as snacking and the consumption of calorie-laden, nutrition-deprived foods, are widely accepted in the culture, and support for those factors is paid for in the billions, by the industries that produce worthless food.

Also, there are mental and emotional obstacles. As Dr. Pretlow wrote to the concerned mother of a teenage girl,

Educating her on the health dangers of weight gain may have no effect. Education on health effects of smoking doesn’t have much effect on kids either. Kids, particularly teenagers, tend to feel invincible.

He made the point that parents cannot force children to accept help, but only persuade them to accept an opportunity that is offered. (Yes, this is a pitch for BrainWeighve, the app developed by Dr. Pretlow and his team, that will be available soon.)

With kids, and humans in general, motivations are more effective than threats. When it comes to inspiration, “If you don’t lose weight, you might get diabetes and respiratory problems, then you’ll really be a mess,” is a non-starter. Concepts such as the ability to wear trendy outfits and become a social media influencer are more powerful than predictions of doom.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Morbidity vs. Mortality: What’s the Difference?,” VeryWellHealth.com, 09/24/22
Image by Alexander Pfeiffenberger/CC BY 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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