Many People Who Are Overweight or Obese Have Never Been Told By Their Doctors to Lose Weight

    NEW YORK, N.Y. – February 22, 2011 – A new Harris Poll suggests that many doctors are doing little or nothing to help their overweight patients to lose weight. Using classifications defined by the World Health Organization, 19% of those who are morbidly obese (with a Body Mass Index, or BMI, of 35.0 or greater), 46% of those who are obese (BMI of between 30.0 and 34.99) and 72% who are overweight but not obese (BMI of between 25.0 and 29.99) say that their doctors have never told them to lose weight.

    Many of these people clearly recognize that they should lose weight and have made a New Year’s resolution to do so, including 62% of the morbidly obese, 59% of the obese and 49% of the overweight.

    Many of those who are overweight have participated at some time in their lives in programs to try to manage their weight. In most cases these were their own personal programs rather than formal programs run by weight loss companies such as Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig, or programs by their employers or insurance companies. However it is notable that 19% of the morbidly obese, 27% of the obese and 31% of the overweight have never participated in any weight management program, even one of their own.

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,566 adults surveyed online between January 17 and 24, 2011 by Harris Interactive.

    Some other interesting findings in this survey include:

    • Fully 44% of all adults say that they made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, including 47% of women and 40% of men;
    • One in five adults (19%) report that their weight has caused them health problems, including 64% of the morbidly obese and 23% of the obese; and
    • A third of all adults (32%) have been told by their doctors that they should lose weight. However, as noted above many of those who are overweight (and even 19% who are morbidly obese) have never been told that they should do so.

    So What?

    Obesity and the need to greatly reduce it has become a front page story. First Lady Michelle Obama has made childhood obesity her cause. A new study by the Society of Actuaries calculates that the total cost of overweight and obesity in the United States is about $270 billion per year. And a paper published recently in the medical journal The Lancet claims that one in every ten adults on the planet are now obese. Furthermore, it is predicted that this obesity epidemic will trigger a huge increase in many diseases from diabetes and arthritis to several types of cancer, heart disease and depression.

    This survey suggests that we are doing a reasonably good job of warning people of the need to lose weight. However, it also points up the need to get doctors much more involved in weight loss, and to greatly increase participation in weight management programs.

     

     

    TABLE 1A

    NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION – by generation and gender

    Is losing weight one of your New Year’s resolutions?

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Generation

    Gender

    Echo Boomers (18-34)

    Gen X (35-46)

    Baby Boomers (47-65)

    Matures (66+)

    Male

    Female

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Yes

    44

    42

    46

    47

    35

    40

    47

    No

    53

    53

    51

    49

    63

    58

    48

    Decline to answer

    4

    5

    3

    3

    2

    3

    5

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

     

     

    TABLE 1B

    NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION – by BMI category

    Is losing weight one of your New Year’s resolutions?

    Base: All adults

    Total

    BMI Score

    Under-weight

    (<18.5)

    Normal weight

    (18.5-<25)

    Over-weight

    (25.0-<30)

    Obese

    (30.0-<35)

    Morbidly obese

    (35.0+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Yes

    44

    15

    23

    49

    59

    62

    No

    53

    77

    74

    49

    37

    36

    Decline to answer

    4

    7

    3

    2

    4

    3

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

      As defined by the World Health Organization, respondents having a Body Mass Index of less than 18.5 were categorized as underweight, respondents having a Body Mass Index of between 18.5 and 24.99 were categorized as normal weight, respondents having a Body Mass Index of between 25.0 and 29.99 were categorized as overweight, respondents having a Body Mass Index of between 30.0 and 34.99 were categorized as obese and respondents having a Body Mass Index of 35.0 or greater were categorized as morbidly obese.

     


     

     

    TABLE 2A

    HEALTH ISSUES – by generation and gender

    Has your weight caused you any health issues?

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Generation

    Gender

    Echo Boomers (18-34)

    Gen X (35-46)

    Baby Boomers (47-65)

    Matures (66+)

    Male

    Female

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Yes

    19

    10

    20

    27

    21

    18

    20

    No

    75

    85

    74

    67

    71

    76

    73

    Not at all sure

    6

    6

    6

    6

    8

    6

    6

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

     

     

    TABLE 2B

    HEALTH ISSUES – by BMI category

    Has your weight caused you any health issues?

    Base: All adults

    Total

    BMI Score

    Under-weight

    (<18.5)

    Normal weight

    (18.5-<25)

    Over-weight

    (25.0-<30)

    Obese

    (30.0-<35)

    Morbidly obese

    (35.0+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Yes

    19

    8

    4

    12

    23

    64

    No

    75

    87

    93

    81

    68

    28

    Not at all sure

    6

    5

    3

    6

    9

    8

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 3A

    DOCTOR’S ADVICE – by generation and gender

    Has your doctor ever told you to lose weight?

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Generation

    Gender

    Echo Boomers (18-34)

    Gen X (35-46)

    Baby Boomers (47-65)

    Matures (66+)

    Male

    Female

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Yes

    32

    17

    35

    41

    39

    33

    31

    No

    66

    79

    64

    57

    60

    65

    66

    Decline to answer

    2

    3

    1

    2

    1

    2

    3

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     


     

     

    TABLE 3B

    DOCTOR’S ADVICE – by BMI Category

    Has your doctor ever told you to lose weight?

    Base: All adults

    Total

    BMI Score

    Under-weight

    (<18.5)

    Normal weight

    (18.5-<25)

    Over-weight

    (25.0-<30)

    Obese

    (30.0-<35)

    Morbidly obese

    (35.0+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Yes

    32

     

    5

    27

    52

    80

    No

    66

    93

    93

    72

    46

    19

    Decline to answer

    2

    7

    2

    1

    2

    1

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding; indicates less than .05%.

     

     

     

    TABLE 4A

    WEIGHT MANAGEMENT PROGRAMS – by generation and gender

    Have you ever participated in any of the following types of weight management programs?

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Generation

    Gender

    Echo Boomers (18-34)

    Gen X (35-46)

    Baby Boomers (47-65)

    Matures (66+)

    Male

    Female

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    On your own

    57

    53

    60

    60

    53

    54

    59

    With a weight loss company (e.g. Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig)

    13

    7

    14

    16

    16

    6

    19

    Program through an employer

    3

    4

    3

    3

    1

    4

    3

    Program through an insurance company

    2

    1

    3

    3

    1

    3

    2

    None

    38

    41

    35

    33

    42

    40

    35

    Decline to answer

    2

    3

    1

    1

     

    2

    2

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding; indicates less than .05%.

     


     

     

    TABLE 4B

    WEIGHT MANAGEMENT PROGRAMS – by BMI category

    Have you ever participated in any of the following types of weight management programs?

    Base: All adults

    Total

    BMI Score

    Under-weight

    (<18.5)

    Normal weight

    (18.5-<25)

    Over-weight

    (25.0-<30)

    Obese

    (30.0-<35)

    Morbidly obese

    (35.0+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    On your own

    57

    14

    38

    63

    66

    77

    With a weight loss company (e.g. Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig)

    13

    13

    4

    11

    14

    27

    Program through an employer

    3

    9

    2

    4

    4

    3

    Program through an insurance company

    2

    1

    3

    4

    2

    None

    38

    67

    59

    31

    27

    19

    Decline to answer

    2

    5

    2

     

    3

     

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding; indicates less than .05%.

     

     

    TABLE 4C

    WEIGHT MANAGEMENT PROGRAMS

    Have you ever participated in any of the following types of weight management programs?

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Doctor said to lose weight

    Yes

    No

    %

    %

    %

    On your own

    57

    78

    47

    With a weight loss company (e.g. Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig)

    13

    24

    7

    Program through an employer

    3

    4

    3

    Program through an insurance company

    2

    5

    1

    None

    38

    15

    49

    Decline to answer

    2

     

    1

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding; indicates less than .05%.

     

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between January 17 to 24, 2011 among 2,566 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

    All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

    Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

    These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

     

    The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

    J39369

    Q905, 910, 915, 920

     

     

    The Harris Poll ® #23, February 22, 2011

    By Humphrey Taylor, Chairman, The Harris Poll

    About Harris Interactive

    Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.