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Age, blood pressure, body weight and fatness are risk factors for total and cardiovascular disease mortality in populations of European ancestry. This study examines associations between these characteristics and sixyear mortality in a prospective sample of American Samoans (N = 5800), a Polynesian population noted for a high prevalence of obesity and a moderately high prevalence of hypertension. Data on age, body weight, height, blood pressure and three skin folds were collected during 1976 and later linked to mortality records from 1976 through 1981. The body mass index (BMI) was determined to provide an index of overweight. Neither body weight nor BMI were related to total or cardiovascular mortality in men or women. Age and elevated systolic or diastolic blood pressure were associated with elevated total and cardiovascular disease mortality in both sexes. The finding that elevated body weight and early mortality are not directly related in this very overweight Polynesian population contrasts with many studies on populations of European ancestry. Conversely, the effect of blood pressure on total as well as cardiovascular mortality is consistent with previous studies on populations of European descent. These results suggest that relationships between physiological characteristics and mortality may vary with cultural, genetic or physiological factors not examined here. Further studies of obese populations in a cross-cultural context are needed to specify the associations of these characteristics with mortality.