Background Obesity is associated with cardiovascular diseases and is a risk factor for all-cause mortality. Until now, the associations between abdominal obesity and mortality or cardiovascular disease (CVD) incidence have not been conclusive. We aimed to evaluate the associations between waist circumference (WC) and mortality or CVD incidence in a general Korean population. Methods We analyzed a total of 204,068 adults older than 40 years of age who had undergone a national health examination at least once from 2009 to 2018 in the Korean National Health Insurance Service Cohort. WC was divided into five categories (< 80, 80–84.9, 85–89.9, 90–94.9, ≥ 95 cm). Hazard ratios for death and CVD incidence were calculated using Cox proportional hazards models. Results In men, WC and overall mortality showed a reverse J-shaped association. In women, the association between WC and overall mortality was not significant. For both men and women, WC was not associated with the risk of cardiovascular mortality. Contrary to the mortality trend, CVD incidence was positively associated with WC in both men and women, and the risk of the CVD incidence was the lowest in subjects with a WC < 80 cm. Conclusions WC exhibited a significant J-shaped association with overall mortality in men, where subjects who had central obesity showed a lower rate of mortality than those in the lowest or highest WC group. The risk of incident CVD showed a positive association with central obesity, where the lowest risk was observed for subjects in the lowest WC group in a general Korean population.
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