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Gallup Survey: Half of Overweight People Not Seriously Trying to Lose Weight

Americans weigh 15 pounds more than they should

More than three in 10 American adults (31%) say they weigh at least 20 pounds more than their “ideal” weight, and almost all of these (90%) want to do something about it. But less than half (48%) say they are “seriously trying to lose weight,” according to a new Gallup survey.

In its annual Health and Healthcare survey, Gallup asked Americans to report their weight, and later, to say what their ideal weight should be. In 2015, the average weight for U.S. adults was 176 pounds, including an average 196 pounds for men and 155 pounds for women. The reported ideal weight is 161 pounds for national adults –– 183 pounds for men and 139 pounds for women. Americans weigh an average of 15 pounds more than their perceived ideal weight.

For the group reporting their weight as 20 pounds or more above their ideal, the average self-reported actual weight was 213 pounds, including an average 237 pounds for men and 193 pounds for women. These results echo findings from four previous Health and Healthcare surveys conducted from 2011 to 2014. Gallup combined the results from the last five surveys to obtain a more in-depth look at how Americans view their actual weight compared with how much they think they should weigh:

  • About half of Americans (48%) estimate that they are within 10 pounds of what they consider their ideal weight –– 18% are at their ideal weight; 23% are no more than 10 pounds over it; and 8% are no more than 10 pounds under it.
  • Among those under 30 years of age, 14% estimate that they weigh at least 10 pounds less than what they should. That drops to 5% for those in their 30s, and less than 4% for those in their 40s and above.

Gallup’s last five annual Health and Healthcare polls (2011–2015) showed that age, income, gender, and education all are significant factors in whether someone exceeds his or her preferred weight by at least 20 pounds. Among respondents 18 to 29 years of age, 21% were overweight compared with 40% of those aged 60 to 69 years. Thirty-seven percent of individuals with annual incomes of less than less than $30,000 were overweight compared with 28% of those making more than $75,000 a year. More women than men were overweight (35% vs. 29%, respectively). Thirty-four percent of persons with no college education were overweight compared with 29% of those with a college degree and 29% of those with postgraduate work.

In addition to the basic subgroup findings, the larger data set allowed a look at some smaller subgroups. Among the findings:

  • Women of all ages are more likely than men to estimate that they are at least 20 pounds overweight. The differences are most pronounced for those in their 20s and 50s.
  • Unmarried men (25%) are less likely than married men (32%) to say they are at least 20 pounds overweight, while there is basically no difference between unmarried women (36%) and married women (35%).
  • Those without insurance, those with private insurance, and those with Medicaid or Medicare are all about as likely to be 20 pounds or more overweight.

The results of this survey were based on telephone interviews conducted in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and most recently, November 4 to 8, 2015. The aggregated sample for the five polls contained 4,915 adults (aged 18 years and older) living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Source: Gallup; December 7, 2015.

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