Health characteristics of U.S. adults by body mass index category: results from NHANES 1999-2002

Public Health Rep. Jan-Feb 2006;121(1):67-73. doi: 10.1177/003335490612100113.


Objectives: We examined self-reported health characteristics, health care utilization, activity patterns, and demographic characteristics of U.S. adults 20 years and over by body mass index (BMI) category. We hypothesized that overweight and obese adults would report fair/poor health more often, report more health provider visits annually, experience more joint pain, report greater limitations in their daily activities, and report more hours of sedentary leisure-time activity than normal-weight adults.

Methods: Self-reported health characteristics of U.S. adults from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 1999-2002 were examined for three BMI categories: normal weight (BMI 18.5-24.9), overweight (BMI 25.0-29.9), and obese (BMI > or = 30.0). Covariates included gender, race/ethnicity, cigarette smoking, and educational attainment. We examined BMI group differences using descriptive and regression methods.

Results: Compared to normal-weight individuals, overweight individuals reported fair/poor health more often, more limitations in daily activities, and more health provider contacts. Overweight and obese subjects reported more hours of television watching and video game use compared to normal-weight subjects.

Conclusion: Our findings are useful to describe the health characteristics of U.S. adults and may be used to anticipate future demand for health services and to support intervention programs that help individuals achieve desirable weight status.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Self Disclosure
  • United States