Body Mass Index (BMI), defined as the ratio of individual mass (in kilograms) to the square of the associated height (in meters), is one of the most widely discussed and utilized risk factors in medicine and public health, given the increasing obesity worldwide and its relation to metabolic disease. Statistically, BMI is a composite random variable, since human weight (converted to mass) and height are themselves random variables. Much effort over the years has gone into attempts to model or approximate the BMI distribution function. This paper derives the mathematically exact BMI probability density function (PDF), as well as the exact bivariate PDF for human weight and height. Taken together, weight and height are shown to be correlated bivariate lognormal variables whose marginal distributions are each lognormal in form. The mean and variance of each marginal distribution, together with the linear correlation coefficient of the two distributions, provide 5 nonadjustable parameters for a given population that uniquely determine the corresponding BMI distribution, which is also shown to be lognormal in form. The theoretical analysis is tested experimentally by gender against a large anthropometric data base, and found to predict with near perfection the profile of the empirical BMI distribution and, to great accuracy, individual statistics including mean, variance, skewness, kurtosis, and correlation. Beyond solving a longstanding statistical problem, the significance of these findings is that, with knowledge of the exact BMI distribution functions for diverse populations, medical and public health professionals can then make better informed statistical inferences regarding BMI and public health policies to reduce obesity.
Open Journal of Statistics