WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Almost half of Americans (45%) worry about their weight "all" or "some of the time," significantly higher than the 34% who reported this level of worry in 1990. Naturally, Americans who consider themselves to be overweight are much more likely to worry about their weight than are those who say their weight is "about right," 67% vs. 32%, respectively.
About the same percentage of Americans report worrying about their weight now as did in 2012, when Gallup last asked the question, and nearly half of American adults remain preoccupied with their weight. These data are from the Gallup Consumption Habits survey, conducted July 7-10.
Different segments of the population are more preoccupied with their weight than others. Women (21%) are significantly more likely than men (9%) to say they worry about their weight all of the time. Almost one-third of men (32%) say they never worry about their weight, compared with just 16% of women.
Young adults are also more likely to worry about their weight all of the time, compared with other age groups. Americans aged 65 and up are the most likely to report "never" worrying about their weight.
Losing Weight Remains a Priority for Some Americans
Although 45% of Americans say they worry about their weight, a smaller percentage, 29%, say they are 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 they are seriously trying to lose weight.
A majority of Americans who see themselves as overweight, 54%, report they are trying to lose weight at this time. Over one-third of women (35%) and nonwhite Americans (41%) say they are seriously trying to lose weight, compared with 22% of men and 24% of whites.
Gallup asked the 29% of Americans who say they are trying to lose weight to share one or two of the primary reasons why they are doing so. About half of those trying to lose weight say it is to be healthier in general, and another 29% say they are trying to lose weight for specific medical or health reasons. About one-quarter report they want to lose weight to improve their physical appearance. About one in 10 say they are doing so simply to feel better.
Almost half of Americans say that they worry about their weight all or some of the time, including two-thirds of those who see themselves as overweight. This finding suggests that weight plays a major role in the American public's psyche, particularly for those who are overweight. Those who are actively trying to lose weight generally say they are doing so for health reasons, suggesting Americans are aware that carrying extra pounds can negatively affect their health.
Still, only 29% of the American public say they are seriously trying to lose weight, which is significantly below the 45% who see themselves as overweight. Furthermore, the 45% who admit to being overweight is lower than the 63% of Americans who are overweight or obese according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which uses self-reported height and weight to calculate body mass index (BMI). These findings underscore previous Gallup research showing that even viewing yourself as overweight is not enough to prompt some Americans to try to lose weight.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted July 7-10, 2014, with a random sample of 1,013 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
For results based on the total sample of 292 adults who are trying to lose weight, the margin of sampling error is ±7 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the most recent Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the most recent National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the most recent U.S. census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
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For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.