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Open Access Influences of Sex and BMI on the Weight Level Perception of Others

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Objectives: This study examines how the sex and body mass index (BMI) of both the observer (the interviewer) and the observed (the respondent) influence the way we perceive the weight level of others. Methods: The study uses mixed-process IV regression and representative data from the Danish Longitudinal Survey of Youth – Children (DLSY-C) with 3015 respondents and 88 interviewers. Face-to-face interviews constitute the social setting, with interviewers estimating the weight level of the respondents, thereby avoiding bias from endogenous sorting of individuals into social contexts. The data include both male and female interviewers and respondents. Results: Women are placed in higher weight categories than men, net of actual BMI. Men tend to underestimate the weight level of women more often than do women. The higher the BMI of the interviewer, the more likely the interviewer is to perceive respondents as belonging to a low weight level category. Conclusions: The findings underscore the role of own sex and own BMI when estimating the weight level of others, thereby broadening the perspective of weight perception to go beyond individual self-perception to instead capture a general view upon weight levels with possible implications for weight management.

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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Senior Researcher, KORA, the Danish Institute for Local and Regional Government Research;, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: September 1, 2016

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  • 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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