Comparison between measured and perceived weight status in a nationally representative sample of Australian adults

Jessica Herbert, Karen Louise Peterson, Laura Alston, Steven Allender, Melanie Nichols

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Background Many individuals may not accurately perceive whether their weight status poses a health risk. This paper aimed to determine how accurately Australians perceived their weight status compared to objective measurements, and to determine what factors were associated with underestimating weight status. Methods Participants were 7947 non-pregnant adults from the 2011 to 2012 Australian National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey, with complete data for self-reported and measured weight status. Multivariate logistic regression was used to examine associations between individual characteristics and accuracy of perceived weight status. Results Overall, 25.5% of the sample underestimated and 3.8% overestimated their weight status. Men were almost twice as likely as women to underestimate (34.0% vs 17.7%, p < 0.001). In both sexes, underestimating weight status was strongly associated with higher waist circumference, satisfaction with weight and older age. In men, underestimation was associated with low education levels and being on a diet, and in women, underestimating weight status was associated with being born overseas and area-level disadvantage. Conclusions At least a quarter of the adult population misperceives their weight status as healthy when in fact they are at increased risk of morbidity and mortality due to overweight and obesity. This may present a major barrier to prevention efforts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)414-425
Number of pages12
JournalObesity Research and Clinical Practice
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Jul 2017


  • Adults
  • Australia
  • Body mass index
  • Perceived weight

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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