Perceived health risk of excess body weight among overweight and obese men and women: differences by sex

Prev Med. 2008 Jul;47(1):46-52. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2008.01.008. Epub 2008 Jan 26.


Objectives: To describe perceptions of health risk from excess body weight among adults, and assess if lack of perceived risk was associated with trying to lose weight.

Methods: Sex-specific logistic regression models were used to determine odds of disagreement that one's weight is a health risk and odds of trying to lose weight among overweight (BMI=25.0-29.9 kg/m(2), n=1296) and obese (BMI> or =30 kg/m(2), n=1335) adult participants in the 2004 Styles' surveys.

Results: Men were more likely than women to disagree their body weight was a health risk (among the overweight, 62% vs. 43%; the obese 20% vs. 14% obese). Disagreement with risk was associated with good health status and race/ethnicity among both sexes and lower education and income among women. Odds of currently trying to lose weight were significantly lower among obese men who disagreed, and overweight men and women who were neutral or disagreed that their body weight was a health risk.

Conclusions: Many overweight and obese adults do not perceive their weight to be a health risk; this perception was associated with lower prevalence of trying to lose weight, particularly among men. Discussion by clinicians about the health risks of excess weight may alter perceived risk and help promote weight loss efforts.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Body Weight
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Overweight / complications
  • Overweight / psychology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Weight Loss
  • Young Adult