What I Weigh and What I Say: Weight Dissatisfaction and Self-reporting Bias

Amelia Branigan , University of Maryland

So long as self-reported weight and height are used to estimate obesity in social survey data, understanding sources of reporting error will be critical for interpreting obesity rates. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) has long fielded measures of both self-reported and measured body weight and height, but between 2007 and 2012, respondents were also asked to report how much they would ideally weigh. To better understand how social desirability bias affects obesity estimates derived from self-reported body weight, here I assess the relationship between weight misreporting and "weight dissatisfaction," defined as the gap between one’s ideal weight and one’s measured weight. Findings affirm that self-reported weight does indeed operate as a barometer of lay understandings of ideal weight, with significant differences by sex in how lay ideals align with medical guidelines.

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 Presented in Session 11. Health & Mortality 2