Study: People More Likely to Admit Weight Problem If Doctor Addresses Issue

Patients told by their physicians they were overweight or obese were more likely to acknowledge a weight problem and try to do something about it, a new study shows, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina and Imperial College London found that getting an honest assessment from a physician appeared to be a key factor in whether or not study participants considered themselves overweight.

Among the participants who were overweight according to their body mass indexes and did not report hearing that news from a physician, almost 37 percent did not think they were overweight. And 19 percent of obese participants whose physicians did not talk to them about weight said they did not think they were overweight. Only six percent of overweight and three percent of obese participants reporting a weight-focused conversation with a physician thought they were not overweight.

People with a BMI of 25 or greater are considered overweight, and those with a BMI of at least 30 are considered obese.
The study authors wrote: "Participants who reported that they had been told by a physician they were overweight were more likely to desire to lose weight and attempt to lose weight."

The researchers used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey that looked at 7,790 adults between the ages of 20 and 64 who had their body mass index measured. Participants answered a questionnaire as part of the survey. Only 45 percent of those qualifying as overweight said they had ever been told that by a physician. Among those with a BMI qualifying them as obese, 66 percent reported being told by a doctor they were overweight.

These results suggest it is important for physicians to tell their patients if their BMI puts them in the overweight or obese category, even if it would seem to be obvious.

The study cannot say for sure whether it was the conversation with the physician that caused patients to alter their perceptions of their weight or attempt to lose pounds. Nor can it say if people were successful in their attempts.