Do People Associate Obesity with Poor Health? Changes in the Socioeconomic Gradient in Obesity-Related Health Knowledge

Jennifer Van Hook, Pennsylvania State University
Claire Altman, Pennsylvania State University

Obesity is linked to many negative health outcomes, yet it is unclear whether people associate obesity with poor health. We expect that those with higher levels of education will be more likely to recognize the health risks of obesity than others. Additionally, we expect to see this pattern only in recent decades after the health risks of obesity have become more widely known. Because of data limitations, our approach is to use NHANES data collected across four decades to examine the relationship between body weight and self-rated health while controlling for as many other health conditions and behaviors as possible. If people believe that being overweight or obese worsens health, then this should be reflected in a lower SRH rating. Our preliminary findings confirm our expectations. The association between BMI and SRH is stronger at higher levels of education, but this pattern did not emerge until the early 1990s.

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Presented in Poster Session 5