Investigating Perceived vs. Medical Weight Status Classification among College Students: Room for Improvement Exists among the Overweight and Obese

Abstract

The American College Health Association estimated that 31% of college students are overweight or obese. It is important that students have a correct perception of body weight status as extra weight has potential adverse health effects. This study assessed accuracy of perceived weight status versus medical classification among 102 college students. Perceived weight status was determined by responses to these questions, as part of a health questionnaire, “Are you overweight?” and “Which of the following best describes you?” (obese, overweight, normal weight, under weight). Medical classification was indicated from body mass index (using researcher-recorded weight and height) based on World Health Organization standards. Seventy eight percent of participants (n = 80) correctly assessed their weight status with significantly more females (79%, n = 45 of 57) than males (53%, n = 24 of 45) correctly assessing their status (p < 0.01). All participants who misclassified their weight (n = 33) under classified their status as compared to the medical classification. Participants who correctly classified their status were, on average, 0-10 pounds overweight whereas those who misclassified were 11-20 pounds overweight. Among college students, nutrition education strategies should focus on students correctly identifying their weight status and health implications associated with an overweight/obese condition.

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