• Journal Article

How Accurate Are Americans' Perceptions of Their Own Weight?


Squiers, L., Renaud, J., McCormack, L., Tzeng, J., Bann, C., & Williams, P. (2014). How Accurate Are Americans' Perceptions of Their Own Weight? Journal of Health Communication, 19(7), 795-812. DOI: 10.1080/10810730.2013.864727


As obesity/overweight has increased in the United States (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009 ), studies have found that Americans' perceptions of their own weight often are not aligned with their actual body mass index (BMI; Brener et al., 2004 ; Christakis, 2003; Johnson-Taylor et al., 2008 ). Taylor, Funk, and Craighill ( 2006 ) found that half of Americans whose BMI indicated they were overweight perceived their weight to be just about right. The purpose of this study was to examine factors that influence the accuracy of weight self-perceptions and whether accuracy influences health behaviors. Using data from the 2007 Health Information National Trends Survey, the authors compared respondents' weight self-perceptions to their actual BMI to determine the accuracy of their weight self-perceptions. About 28%of respondents were obese, 35%were overweight, 35%were of normal weight, and 2%were underweight. About three quarters of the sample's self-perceptions of weight were aligned with their BMI. About 10%of the sample had a BMI that indicated they were overweight, but they perceived themselves to be of normal weight; about 10%were of normal weight but perceived themselves to be overweight; and about 5%of respondents were of normal weight but thought they were underweight. Gender, race, and education were associated with the accuracy of respondents' weight perceptions. Results suggest that asking patients about their weight self-perceptions could be useful in clinical settings and that weight perception accuracy could be used to segment audiences and tailor messages