Editorials

Public perception of overweight

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.a347 (Published 10 July 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a347
  1. Sara N Bleich, assistant professor of health policy and management
  1. 1Department of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA
  1. sbleich{at}jhsph.edu

    Underestimation of weight status hasimportant implications for public health programmes

    The mismatch between self perceived and self reported weight has been documented for decades; women typically view themselves as heavier than they really are, whereas men often underestimate their weight.1 We do not know whether people’s perception of their weight has changed with the rapidly growing obesity epidemic, in which more than 300 million adults worldwide are overweight.2

    In the linked study, Johnson and colleagues look at adults’ changing perceptions of weight in the United Kingdom over eight years and find that heavier people were less likely to think that they were overweight in 2007 than in 1999.3 The authors attribute the declining concordance between self reported and self perceived weight to the greater stigma of being overweight, which may discourage people from identifying themselves as overweight or obese, and to changing societal norms, which may have increased the threshold at which people think of themselves as overweight. This shift is reinforced by media presentations of …

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