Use of self-report to monitor overweight and obesity in populations: some issues for consideration

Aust N Z J Public Health. 2000 Feb;24(1):96-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-842x.2000.tb00733.x.


Objective: To examine the validity of self-reported height and weight data reported over the telephone in the 1997 NSW Health Survey, and to determine its accuracy to monitor overweight and obesity in population surveys.

Method: Self-reported and measured heights and weights were collected from 227 people living in Western Sydney, who had participated in the NSW Health Survey 1997.

Results: Self-reported (SR) weights and heights led to misclassification of relative weight status. BMI, based on measured weights and heights, classified 62% of males and 47% of females as overweight or obese, compared with 39% and 32%, respectively, from self-report.

Conclusions: Caution should be used when interpreting SR height and weight data from surveys, because BMI derived from these is likely to underestimate the true prevalence of overweight and obesity.

Implications: SR data have a place in nutrition monitoring because they are relatively inexpensive and easy to collect. However, classifying people into weight categories on the basis of accepted cut-points, using SR heights and weights, yields inaccurate prevalence estimates. Periodic sub-studies of the validity of SR heights and weights are needed to indicate the extent to which the validity of SR is changing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bias
  • Body Height*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New South Wales / epidemiology
  • Obesity / classification
  • Obesity / diagnosis
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • Prevalence
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sex Distribution
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / standards*
  • Telephone