NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Americans Gaining Weight Despite Health Concerns

August 19, 2002

Recent research has found obesity doubles the risk of heart failure compared to those who are not obese. However, there is growing evidence that Americans are more at home with excess weight than a few years ago. They also see little risk in carrying more weight:

  • Although nearly three in five American adults are overweight or obese, only 40 percent identify themselves as being so.
  • Fifty-five percent described their weight as "about right," down from 46 percent in 1990.
  • Seventy-seven percent described their health as "excellent" or "good."

An online survey got to the root of the weight problem most Americans face. Close to a third claimed the worst aspect of dieting was cutting down on calories. Another survey found that 15 percent of respondents ate when "upset or depressed," and 40 percent ate when "bored or nervous." However, 45 percent stated they simply ate "for pleasure."

Despite the reasons why people eat, they tend to blame "larger portions," "convenience foods" and "lack of exercise." Considering the prevalence of obesity in the United States, strategies to promote optimal body weight would likely reduce rates of heart failure.

Source: Satish Kenchaiah et al., "Obesity and the Risk of Heart Failure," New England Journal of Medicine, August 1, 2002; and Jennifer Harper, "Overweight but Unconcerned," Insight, August 19, 2002.


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