Much was made of a recent study from the Trust for America’s Health regarding the rapid increase in obesity in the U.S., particularly the claim that over 44 percent of the U.S. population will be obese by 2030. Frankly, it’s horrifying.
But do people really know they are that overweight? We wondered if our data on consumer self-awareness (or lack thereof) could shed some light on how to solve obesity problems. Or maybe it could just yield a bunch of silly observations that have no larger significance whatsoever. For now, we’re focused on the latter. Fortunately, we have a “robust” amount of data on U.S. consumers and their weight perceptions.
Over the past year, we asked more than 130,000 Americans a simple question — “Do you consider yourself to be overweight?” — with a super-simple yes/no response set. We then queried thousands of other respondent attributes in our database and flagged some of the more fascinating and quirky cross tabs.
Now, let’s be really clear. We are obviously dealing with a significant self-reporting bias when we ask people about their own weight. Some people, who ARE overweight, might truly believe they’re not, while some people who are NOT overweight might actually believe they are. Just remember that this is a commentary on consumer self-image, not obesity.
Let’s first look at the overall results:
According to our data, a full 58 percent of U.S. consumers consider themselves to be overweight. This would seem to conflict slightly with more empirical data from the Centers for Disease Control, which concluded that 69.2 percent of Americans are, in fact, overweight. (See: “self-reporting bias,” above.)
Let’s now look at the profile characteristics of the people in these two categories. Who actually thinks they are overweight and who doesn’t? Here we can look at the respondents based on age:
Clearly, the question correlates very heavily with age, where those who are 35 and up (peaking at 55-64) say yes, they are overweight, while younger respondents are increasingly more likely to say no.
The gender gap is pretty clear too
As can be seen in the chart above, women are significantly (at least statistically so) more likely to consider themselves to be overweight than men. Ironically, medical research has concluded that men are actually far more likely to be overweight, regardless of what they might think. It’s always funny when our research confirms the prevalence of the stereotypical male ego.
Once we got beyond the basic demographics, we were amazed at some of the associations we found. First, let’s talk about one factor that did NOT correlate: