Whether they're cutting carbs or trimming fat, Americans constantly take steps to control their weight, and companies are making millions of dollars each year on diet programs.
But just how worried are Americans about their weight today? A recent Gallup Poll* asked that very question and found that nearly half of Americans say they worry about their weight at least some of the time. The other half say they rarely or never worry about their weight.
The current results represent the highest percentage of Americans saying they worry about their weight all or some of the time since Gallup first asked this question 15 years ago. In 1990, only about a third of Americans (34%) said they worried about their weight at least some of the time. This sentiment increased to 42% in 1999, and then edged up again this year, to 49%.
Which groups of Americans spend time worrying about their weight? The answer: People who already see themselves as overweight, women (especially younger women), people who otherwise think they have an unhealthy diet, and to a lesser extent, people who drink alcohol.
Americans who describe their weight situations as overweight are substantially more likely than those who describe their weight as about right or underweight to say they worry about their weight all or some of the time. Nearly 7 in 10 self-described overweight adults, 69%, say they spend time worrying about their weight, compared with a third (33%) of those who say they are about right or underweight.
The results are similar for those who have tried to lose weight in the past and those who have not. Sixty-three percent of Americans who report that they have tried to lose weight in the past say they worry about their weight at least some of the time, while only 17% of those who have never tried to lose weight worry this often.
Gender and Age
A majority of women, 57%, say they worry about their weight, while fewer than 4 in 10 men (39%) do so. This pattern has been consistent since Gallup first asked this question in 1990. At that time, 46% of women and only 21% of men said they worried about their weight. And, in 1999, 52% of women said they worried, compared with 31% of men.
Interestingly, younger women (those aged 18 to 49) are much more likely to worry about their weight than are older women (those aged 50 and older) or men of any age. The latest poll finds that 62% of younger women worry about their weight all or some of the time, while 51% of older women do so. Among men, 40% of younger men and 38% of older men say they worry this often.
Diet and Personal Health
Americans who describe their diet as "very healthy" and those who say their personal health is "excellent" are substantially less likely to say they spend time worrying about their weight.
Thirty-eight percent of those who say their diet is very healthy say they worry all or some of the time about their weight. Among those who say their diet is somewhat healthy, this sentiment increases to 50%, and among those with a poor diet, 59% say they worry.
Similarly, 39% of those who describe their health as excellent say they worry about their weight, compared with 53% of those who report "only" good health, as well as 53% of those in fair or poor health.
*Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,006 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted July 7-10, 2005. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. 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.