Our perception of weight: Socioeconomic and sociocultural explanations

Natasha J Howard, Graeme J Hugo, Anne W Taylor, David H Wilson

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OBJECTIVE: To compare self-reported perception of weight with biomedically measured body mass index in different socioeconomic and cultural groups.

METHOD: Of the original North West Adelaide Health (Cohort) Study (n = 4060) 68.5% (n = 2780) underwent a computer assisted telephone interview (CATI) answering additional questions related to their social and health status. The participants were asked "In terms of your weight, do you consider yourself to be… too thin, a little thin, normal weight, a little overweight or very overweight". The self-perception of weight was compared to biomedically measured BMI (body mass index). Binary logistic regression was used to compare those participants who were obese (BMI ≥ 30) with the self-perceived weight status of 'a little overweight'. The outcome measures included the Socioeconomic Indexes for Areas Index of Relative Socioeconomic Disadvantage (SEIFA IRSD), country of birth and household income.

RESULTS: Of those that were underestimating their obese weight status, 41.5% were male and 32.2% female. The highest misclassification was for those who considered their weight to be 'a little overweight', with 59.6% biomedically measured with a BMI of over 30. The odds of being biomedically measured obese (BMI ≥ 30) were compared to those who considered themselves to be 'a little overweight'. Those that misreported their weight status and were biomedically obese, were more likely to be living in the lowest quintile of disadvantage, have a household income of less then $20,000 or be born in Eastern or Western Europe.

CONCLUSION: There are psychosocial, sociocultural and social environmental influences related to the perception of weight status. Future research will need to understand the processes whereby people are not aware they have a weight problem.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-142
Number of pages72
JournalObesity Research and Clinical Practice
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Jul 2008


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