Trends in racial/ethnic disparities in overweight self-perception among US adults, 1988-1994 and 1999-2008

Brent A. Langellier, Deborah Glik, Alexander N. Ortega, Michael L. Prelip

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Objective Weight self-perceptions, or how a person perceives his/her weight status, may affect weight outcomes. We use nationally representative data from 1988-1994 and 1999-2008 to examine racial/ethnic disparities in weight self-perceptions and understand how disparities have changed over time. Design Using data from two time periods, 1988-1994 and 1999-2008, we calculated descriptive statistics, multivariate logistic regression models and predicted probabilities to examine trends in weight self-perceptions among Whites, Blacks, US-born Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants to the USA. Setting National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III (1988-1994) and continuous NHANES (1999-2008). Subjects Adult NHANES participants aged 18 years and older (n 37 050). Results The likelihood of self-classifying as overweight declined between 1988-1994 and 1999-2008 among all US adults, despite significant increases in mean BMI and overweight prevalence. Trends in weight self-perceptions varied by gender and between racial/ethnic groups. Whites in both time periods were more likely than racial/ethnic minorities to perceive themselves as overweight. After adjustment for other factors, disparities in weight self-perceptions between Whites and Blacks of both genders grew between survey periods (P<0·05), but differences between overweight White women and Mexican immigrants decreased (P<0·05). Conclusions Weight self-perceptions have changed during the obesity epidemic in the USA, but changes have not been consistent across racial/ethnic groups. Secular declines in the likelihood of self-classifying as overweight, particularly among Blacks, are troubling because weight self-perceptions may affect weight-loss efforts and obesity outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2115-2125
Number of pages11
JournalPublic Health Nutrition
Issue number12
StatePublished - Nov 20 2015


  • Health disparities
  • Obesity
  • Psychosocial factors
  • Race/ethnicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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