A new study published in PLos One followed Irish adults and concluded that people are increasingly likely to underestimate their own body weight over time. So basically, people are bigger than they think they are. Not surprising, but still sigh-worthy.
In the study, performed by the University College of Cork, researchers examined the height and weight data for people for a period of nine years. People were also asked to estimate their own height and weight, and the data they gave to the researchers was used to calculate the subjects’ body mass index (BMI) (an indicator that’s widely perceived as flawed, by the way). Afterward, they were weighed and measured for accuracy. What the study found is that although people were generally good at reporting their own heights, they grossly misjudged their weight and measurements, growing more inaccurate over a period of time.
According to the Los Angeles Times:
Researchers found that the sensitivity, or rate of accuracy, of obese people’s self-estimation of BMI in a 1998 survey was 80%. By 2002, it had fallen to 64% and by 2009 it had dropped to 53%.
Like I said, I’m not surprised at the findings of this study. I mean, it’s obvious that people would tend to underestimate the bad things about themselves and overestimate the good things; that’s human nature. And when you toss obesity into the equation, which is a growing problem both here in the US and abroad, it makes sense that people would be getting bigger yet continuing to underestimate their actual size. It makes sense to the researchers who conducted the study, too—They seem to think that this data can be correlated to “the normalization of obesity.”
Still, I hope that studies like this one can be a wake up call, both to the actual participants and to the general public. Our bodies are getting bigger while our perceptions are staying the same. There’s something incredibly off about that, no?
Photo: Flickr user USACE Europe District