Objective: To examine trends in overweight and misperceived overweight in adults (≥ 20 years) and children (5-15 years) of Spain from 1987 to 2007.
Methods: Data were obtained from five cross-sectional studies, representative of the population of Spain in 1987, 1995, 1997, 2001 and 2006/2007. Self-reported weight and height were used to obtain the body mass index (BMI). Overweight was defined in adults as BMI of ≥ 25 kg m⁻², and in children using age- and sex-specific BMI cutoffs proposed by the International Obesity Task Force. People with overweight were considered to have misperceived overweight when adults considered their weight or their child's weight to be normal or less than normal.
Results: From 1987 to 2006/2007, the prevalence of overweight increased in absolute terms by 14.1% in men and 10.3% in women. Concurrently, the frequency of misperceived overweight remained relatively stable, approximately 35% in men, but rose from 16.5 to 20.8% in women. From 1995/1997 to 2006/2007, the prevalence of overweight increased in absolute terms by 3.2% in boys and 4.6% in girls. Over the same period, there was an absolute 8% increase in misperception of overweight among children of both sexes. As a result, during 2006/2007, approximately 60% of parents did not correctly perceive the weight status of their overweight children. Moreover, misperceived overweight was highest for younger children, and for those whose parents had a higher education.
Conclusions: The obesity epidemic in Spain has been accompanied by an increased misperception of overweight in women and children of both sexes. Our results warn of the low family's readiness to modify the environment and lifestyle needed to control overweight.