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Do Obese Persons Comprehend Their Personal Health Risks?

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Objectives : To test whether overweight and obese individuals believe they are at greater risk of obesity-related diseases and premature mortality.

Methods : Telephone survey of 1139 US adults analyzed using linear and ordered logistic regressions.

Results : Obese (overweight) adults forecast life expectancies 3.9 (2.4) years shorter than those of normal weight adults. Excess weight was associated with greater self-perceived risk of developing diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and stroke. All results were statistically significant.

Conclusions : Overweight and obese adults recognize several personal health risks associated with obesity. Interventions focusing only on health risks of obesity may provide minimal new information and induce little new weight loss.

Keywords: expectations; longevity; obesity; risk; survival

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1 Director, Public Health Economics Program, RTI International, Research Triangle Park, NC.

Publication date: September 1, 2008

More about this publication?
  • The American Journal of Health Behavior seeks to improve the quality of life through multidisciplinary health efforts in fostering a better understanding of the multidimensional nature of both individuals and social systems as they relate to health behaviors.

    The Journal aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the impact of personal attributes, personality characteristics, behavior patterns, social structure, and processes on health maintenance, health restoration, and health improvement; to disseminate knowledge of holistic, multidisciplinary approaches to designing and implementing effective health programs; and to showcase health behavior analysis skills that have been proven to affect health improvement and recovery.

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