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Gallup Poll: Nearly Half of Americans Concerned About Being Overweight

Weight plays major role in American public’s psyche, survey finds

According to a new Gallup survey, almost half of Americans (45%) are worried about their weight “all of the time” or “some of the time” — significantly higher than the 34% who reported this level of worry in 1990. Not surprisingly, Americans who considered themselves to be overweight were much more likely to worry about their weight than were those who said their weight was “about right” (67% vs. 32%, respectively).

This finding suggests that weight plays a major role in the American public’s psyche, particularly for those who are overweight, Gallup says. Those who were actively trying to lose weight generally said they were doing so for health reasons, suggesting that Americans are aware that carrying extra pounds can negatively affect their health.

In the new survey, about the same percentage of Americans reported worrying about their weight now as they did in 2012, when Gallup last asked the question, and nearly half of American adults remained preoccupied with their weight.

The data are from the Gallup Consumption Habits survey, conducted July 7–10, 2014.

Different segments of the population were more preoccupied with their weight than others. Women (21%) were significantly more likely than men (9%) to say they worried about their weight all of the time. Almost one-third of men (32%) said they never worried about their weight, compared with 16% of women.

Young adults were also more likely to worry about their weight all of the time, compared with other age groups. Americans aged 65 and up were the most likely to report "never" worrying about their weight.

Although 45% of Americans said they worry about their weight, a smaller percentage (29%) said they were seriously trying to lose weight. The percentage of Americans actively trying to lose weight was much lower, 18%, in 1990. Since 2003, at least one-quarter of Americans have reported that they are seriously trying to lose weight.

Most (54%) of Americans who saw themselves as overweight reported that they were trying to lose weight. More than one-third of women (35%) and nonwhite Americans (41%) said they were seriously trying to lose weight, compared with 22% of men and 24% of whites.

Gallup asked the 29% of Americans who said they were trying to lose weight to share one or two of the primary reasons why they were doing so. About half of those trying to lose weight said it was to be healthier in general, and another 29% said they were trying to lose weight for specific medical or health reasons. About one-quarter reported that they wanted to lose weight to improve their physical appearance. About one in 10 said they were doing so simply to feel better.

Source: Gallup; July 25, 2014.

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