Has the Obesity Epidemic Peaked?

Proportions of overweight and obese adults increased rapidly from 1983 to 2002

but have not increased in last three years



10 Mar, 2005, 00:00 ET from Harris Interactive

    ROCHESTER, N.Y., March 10 /PRNewswire/ -- The Harris Poll(R) has been
 tracking important lifestyles and behaviors which influence life-expectancy
 and disease rates for more than 20 years. Much has changed since the first
 survey of adults nationwide in 1983. Between 1983 and 2005, these surveys by
 Harris Interactive(R) show that:
 
      --  Cigarette smokers have declined from 30 to 19 percent of all adults,
          and
 
      --  Those who claim that they always wear seatbelts have increased from
          19 to 86 percent of adults.
 
     Obviously, these trends are very good news. However, over these same 22
 years, Harris Interactive finds that in relation to people's weight:
 
      --  People aged 25 and over who are over their recommended weight for
          their height and body frame(1) have increased from 58 to 77 percent,
          and
 
      --  Those who are obese (defined as weighing 20 percent or more than
          their recommended weight(2)) have doubled from 15 to 30 percent.
 
     These are some of the results of a new Harris Poll of 1,012 U.S. adults
 surveyed by telephone by Harris Interactive between February 8 and 13, 2005.
     However, a closer reading of these data suggest that the obesity epidemic
 -- which is probably the most serious trend adversely affecting the future
 health and longevity of the population -- may have peaked. The proportion of
 people over the age of 25 who are overweight reached 80 percent in 2002 and
 2003 but were registered at 76 percent in 2004 and 77 percent this year. The
 proportion who are obese (i.e. 20% or more overweight) peaked at 33 percent in
 2002 and 2003 but has been measured at 30 percent in both 2004 and 2005.
     Of course, with relatively modest changes in these key measures of
 lifestyles and health risks in most years, small sampling and measurement
 errors in any one-year may create the illusion of change (or lack of it). To
 address this possible problem, it is worth looking at the trends on a five-
 year basis and averaging the findings over each five years. When we analyze
 the overweight and obesity numbers in this way, the data do not yet confirm
 that the obesity epidemic has peaked.
     Nevertheless, the results of Harris Interactive's 2004 and 2005 surveys
 are encouraging. They both show the lowest (albeit still appallingly high)
 proportion of people overweight since 2001, and the lowest proportion of obese
 people since 1999.
     This year's survey also reports the lowest proportion of adults smoking
 cigarettes (19%) and the highest proportion of adults claiming to wear
 seatbelts in the front seats of cars since the questions were first asked in
 1983.
 
     Body Mass Index
     Over the last decade the most common way of measuring and describing
 obesity has been to use the body mass index (BMI) based on height and weight.
 This method was not in use in the 1980s when Harris Interactive first started
 reporting the numbers of people who are overweight and obese. At that time the
 most common measure was the Metropolitan Life Tables based on height, weight
 and self-reported body frame (small, medium or large). In order to continue
 these 20-plus years trends Harris Interactive continues to use the original
 Metropolitan Life Tables.
     Using the BMI the 2005 data finds that 59 percent of all adults are now
 overweight and 23 percent are obese. In the future, we plan to report the
 trends using both methods.
 
                                    TABLE 1
           SMOKING, OVERWEIGHT AND SEAT BELT USE - TRENDS 1983 - 2005
 
     Base: All adults
 
                                                     20% or          Always
                          Smoke         Are           More            Wear
                        Cigarettes   Overweight*    Overweight*     Seatbelts**
 
     1983          %       30            58            15              19
     1984          %       28            56           N/A              27
     1985          %       30            62            15              41
     1986          %       27            59           N/A              55
     1987          %       28            59            15              57
     1988          %       26            64            18              60
     1989          %       28            61            17              63
     1990          %       26            64            16              65
     1991          %       25            63            15              69
     1992          %       24            66           N/A              70
     1994          %       26            69           N/A              71
     1995          %       25            71            22              73
     1996          %       24            74            24              75
     1997          %       26            72            27              74
     1998          %       26            76            28              77
     1999          %       24            74            27              77
     2000          %       21            79            32              79
     2001          %       25            76            32              81
     2002          %       23            80            33              81
     2003          %       24            80            33              85
     2004          %       25            76            30              83
     2005          %       19            77            30              86
 
       *   Adults aged 25 and over (for weight only).
      **   When in front seat of car
     N/A = Not available.
 
     Note 1: In almost all years the survey was conducted in January or
             February.
     Note 2: "Overweight" is based on the Metropolitan Life Tables using self-
             reported weight, height and body frame (small, medium or large).
             Like all self-reporting this is subject to error, but the
             identical questions and methods were used in all these surveys.
     Note 3: Poll not conducted in 1993.
 
                                    TABLE 2
               OVERWEIGHT OR OBESE ADULTS IN FIVE-YEAR INCREMENTS
 
     Base: Adults aged 25 and over
 
                                             Overweight          Obese
                                               Adults*           Adults**
     Averages For:                               %                 %
     1983-1985                                  59                15
     1986-1990                                  61                17
     1991-1995                                  67                19
     1996-2000                                  75                28
     2001-2005                                  78                32
 
     * Overweight adults defined as those who weigh more than their recommended
 weight based on height and body frame. Recommended weight is based on the
 Metropolitan Life Tables.
     ** Obese adults defined as adults who weigh 20% or more than their
 recommended weight based on height and body frame. Recommended weight is based
 on the Metropolitan Life Tables.
 
     (1)  Based on the Metropolitan Life Tables.
     (2)  Based on the Metropolitan Life Tables.
 
     Methodology
     The Harris Poll(R) was conducted by telephone within the United States
 between February 8 and 13, 2005, among a nationwide cross section of 1,012
 adults aged 18 and over. Figures for age, sex, race, education, number of
 adults and number of voice/telephone lines in the household were weighted
 where necessary to align them with their actual proportions in the population.
     In theory, with a probability sample of this size, one can say with 95
 percent certainty that the results have a sampling error of plus or minus 3
 percentage points of what they would be if the entire U.S. adult population
 had been polled with complete accuracy. Unfortunately, there are several other
 possible sources of error in all polls or surveys that are probably more
 serious than theoretical calculations of sampling error. They include refusals
 to be interviewed (non-response), question wording and question order,
 interviewer bias, weighting by demographic control data and screening (e.g.,
 for likely voters). It is impossible to quantify the errors that may result
 from these factors.
     These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National
 Council on Public Polls.
 
     J23283
     Q615, Q625
 
     The Harris Poll(R) #20, March 10, 2005
     By Humphrey Taylor, chairman of The Harris Poll, Harris Interactive.
 
     About Harris Interactive(R)
     Harris Interactive Inc. (http://www.harrisinteractive.com), the 15th
 largest and fastest-growing market research firm in the world, is a Rochester,
 N.Y.-based global research company that blends premier strategic consulting
 with innovative and efficient methods of investigation, analysis and
 application. Known for The Harris Poll(R) and for pioneering Internet-based
 research methods, Harris Interactive conducts proprietary and public research
 to help its clients achieve clear, material and enduring results.
     Harris Interactive combines its intellectual capital, databases and
 technology to advance market leadership through U.S. offices and wholly owned
 subsidiaries: London-based HI Europe (http://www.hieurope.com), Paris-based
 Novatris (http://www.novatris.com), Tokyo-based Harris Interactive Japan,
 through newly acquired WirthlinWorldwide, a Reston, Virginia-based research
 and consultancy firm ranked 25th largest in the world, and through an
 independent global network of affiliate market research companies. EOE M/F/D/V
 
     To become a member of the Harris Poll Online(SM) and be invited to
 participate in future online surveys, visit http://www.harrispollonline.com.
 Contacts:
 
      Nancy Wong
      Harris Interactive
      585-214-7316
 
      Kelly Gullo
      Harris Interactive
      585-214-7172
 
 

SOURCE Harris Interactive
    ROCHESTER, N.Y., March 10 /PRNewswire/ -- The Harris Poll(R) has been
 tracking important lifestyles and behaviors which influence life-expectancy
 and disease rates for more than 20 years. Much has changed since the first
 survey of adults nationwide in 1983. Between 1983 and 2005, these surveys by
 Harris Interactive(R) show that:
 
      --  Cigarette smokers have declined from 30 to 19 percent of all adults,
          and
 
      --  Those who claim that they always wear seatbelts have increased from
          19 to 86 percent of adults.
 
     Obviously, these trends are very good news. However, over these same 22
 years, Harris Interactive finds that in relation to people's weight:
 
      --  People aged 25 and over who are over their recommended weight for
          their height and body frame(1) have increased from 58 to 77 percent,
          and
 
      --  Those who are obese (defined as weighing 20 percent or more than
          their recommended weight(2)) have doubled from 15 to 30 percent.
 
     These are some of the results of a new Harris Poll of 1,012 U.S. adults
 surveyed by telephone by Harris Interactive between February 8 and 13, 2005.
     However, a closer reading of these data suggest that the obesity epidemic
 -- which is probably the most serious trend adversely affecting the future
 health and longevity of the population -- may have peaked. The proportion of
 people over the age of 25 who are overweight reached 80 percent in 2002 and
 2003 but were registered at 76 percent in 2004 and 77 percent this year. The
 proportion who are obese (i.e. 20% or more overweight) peaked at 33 percent in
 2002 and 2003 but has been measured at 30 percent in both 2004 and 2005.
     Of course, with relatively modest changes in these key measures of
 lifestyles and health risks in most years, small sampling and measurement
 errors in any one-year may create the illusion of change (or lack of it). To
 address this possible problem, it is worth looking at the trends on a five-
 year basis and averaging the findings over each five years. When we analyze
 the overweight and obesity numbers in this way, the data do not yet confirm
 that the obesity epidemic has peaked.
     Nevertheless, the results of Harris Interactive's 2004 and 2005 surveys
 are encouraging. They both show the lowest (albeit still appallingly high)
 proportion of people overweight since 2001, and the lowest proportion of obese
 people since 1999.
     This year's survey also reports the lowest proportion of adults smoking
 cigarettes (19%) and the highest proportion of adults claiming to wear
 seatbelts in the front seats of cars since the questions were first asked in
 1983.
 
     Body Mass Index
     Over the last decade the most common way of measuring and describing
 obesity has been to use the body mass index (BMI) based on height and weight.
 This method was not in use in the 1980s when Harris Interactive first started
 reporting the numbers of people who are overweight and obese. At that time the
 most common measure was the Metropolitan Life Tables based on height, weight
 and self-reported body frame (small, medium or large). In order to continue
 these 20-plus years trends Harris Interactive continues to use the original
 Metropolitan Life Tables.
     Using the BMI the 2005 data finds that 59 percent of all adults are now
 overweight and 23 percent are obese. In the future, we plan to report the
 trends using both methods.
 
                                    TABLE 1
           SMOKING, OVERWEIGHT AND SEAT BELT USE - TRENDS 1983 - 2005
 
     Base: All adults
 
                                                     20% or          Always
                          Smoke         Are           More            Wear
                        Cigarettes   Overweight*    Overweight*     Seatbelts**
 
     1983          %       30            58            15              19
     1984          %       28            56           N/A              27
     1985          %       30            62            15              41
     1986          %       27            59           N/A              55
     1987          %       28            59            15              57
     1988          %       26            64            18              60
     1989          %       28            61            17              63
     1990          %       26            64            16              65
     1991          %       25            63            15              69
     1992          %       24            66           N/A              70
     1994          %       26            69           N/A              71
     1995          %       25            71            22              73
     1996          %       24            74            24              75
     1997          %       26            72            27              74
     1998          %       26            76            28              77
     1999          %       24            74            27              77
     2000          %       21            79            32              79
     2001          %       25            76            32              81
     2002          %       23            80            33              81
     2003          %       24            80            33              85
     2004          %       25            76            30              83
     2005          %       19            77            30              86
 
       *   Adults aged 25 and over (for weight only).
      **   When in front seat of car
     N/A = Not available.
 
     Note 1: In almost all years the survey was conducted in January or
             February.
     Note 2: "Overweight" is based on the Metropolitan Life Tables using self-
             reported weight, height and body frame (small, medium or large).
             Like all self-reporting this is subject to error, but the
             identical questions and methods were used in all these surveys.
     Note 3: Poll not conducted in 1993.
 
                                    TABLE 2
               OVERWEIGHT OR OBESE ADULTS IN FIVE-YEAR INCREMENTS
 
     Base: Adults aged 25 and over
 
                                             Overweight          Obese
                                               Adults*           Adults**
     Averages For:                               %                 %
     1983-1985                                  59                15
     1986-1990                                  61                17
     1991-1995                                  67                19
     1996-2000                                  75                28
     2001-2005                                  78                32
 
     * Overweight adults defined as those who weigh more than their recommended
 weight based on height and body frame. Recommended weight is based on the
 Metropolitan Life Tables.
     ** Obese adults defined as adults who weigh 20% or more than their
 recommended weight based on height and body frame. Recommended weight is based
 on the Metropolitan Life Tables.
 
     (1)  Based on the Metropolitan Life Tables.
     (2)  Based on the Metropolitan Life Tables.
 
     Methodology
     The Harris Poll(R) was conducted by telephone within the United States
 between February 8 and 13, 2005, among a nationwide cross section of 1,012
 adults aged 18 and over. Figures for age, sex, race, education, number of
 adults and number of voice/telephone lines in the household were weighted
 where necessary to align them with their actual proportions in the population.
     In theory, with a probability sample of this size, one can say with 95
 percent certainty that the results have a sampling error of plus or minus 3
 percentage points of what they would be if the entire U.S. adult population
 had been polled with complete accuracy. Unfortunately, there are several other
 possible sources of error in all polls or surveys that are probably more
 serious than theoretical calculations of sampling error. They include refusals
 to be interviewed (non-response), question wording and question order,
 interviewer bias, weighting by demographic control data and screening (e.g.,
 for likely voters). It is impossible to quantify the errors that may result
 from these factors.
     These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National
 Council on Public Polls.
 
     J23283
     Q615, Q625
 
     The Harris Poll(R) #20, March 10, 2005
     By Humphrey Taylor, chairman of The Harris Poll, Harris Interactive.
 
     About Harris Interactive(R)
     Harris Interactive Inc. (http://www.harrisinteractive.com), the 15th
 largest and fastest-growing market research firm in the world, is a Rochester,
 N.Y.-based global research company that blends premier strategic consulting
 with innovative and efficient methods of investigation, analysis and
 application. Known for The Harris Poll(R) and for pioneering Internet-based
 research methods, Harris Interactive conducts proprietary and public research
 to help its clients achieve clear, material and enduring results.
     Harris Interactive combines its intellectual capital, databases and
 technology to advance market leadership through U.S. offices and wholly owned
 subsidiaries: London-based HI Europe (http://www.hieurope.com), Paris-based
 Novatris (http://www.novatris.com), Tokyo-based Harris Interactive Japan,
 through newly acquired WirthlinWorldwide, a Reston, Virginia-based research
 and consultancy firm ranked 25th largest in the world, and through an
 independent global network of affiliate market research companies. EOE M/F/D/V
 
     To become a member of the Harris Poll Online(SM) and be invited to
 participate in future online surveys, visit http://www.harrispollonline.com.
 Contacts:
 
      Nancy Wong
      Harris Interactive
      585-214-7316
 
      Kelly Gullo
      Harris Interactive
      585-214-7172
 
 SOURCE  Harris Interactive