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Fudging Height and Weight

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Obesity related image Photo: Getty Images

Even though most people do not admit to it, there is a tendency by many individuals to fudge their height and weight when asked in application forms and surveys. Whenever questionnaires are filled for health surveys, both men and women tend to provide erroneous numbers.

The height is almost always increased by several centimeters (or inches) and the weight is less than the actual weight by a few pounds or kilograms.

Now a study confirms these findings, that people fudge data about their personal characteristics on a regular basis. If one were to look at surveys, it would appear that all areas of the country are fit, tall and not obese. In reality, the truth is the exact opposite.

In this recent study from the University of Utah, it was observed that Caucasians tend to fudge data on height and weight more often than African Americans or Hispanics. (1)

Many health surveys tend to ask people about their height and weight because these parameters are easy to obtain and most of the public knows their numbers. In addition, less time is wasted measuring these parameters, making research easy and relatively cheap. But with the population at large underestimating their weight and overestimating their height, the studies become flawed.

This study also observed that under-reporting of the actual weight is common in all races, both genders and across many ethnic groups. Women were more likely to under-report their actual weight than men. And Caucasian women were most likely to do so compared to women in other cultures.

This, the researchers said, was because Caucasian women have intense desires to look and feel thin, and were actually more aware of their weight problems. People most likely to under-report were those with a college education, slightly older and overweight.

Based on these observations, the researchers emphasized that conclusions done in the population where height and weight are obtained indirectly should be carefully assessed. The extent of this under-reporting is felt to be small but anecdotal reports suggest otherwise. (2)

The only way around this issue is for researchers to be more diligent and actually measure the height and weight of the research population, rather than rely on questionnaires.

Questionnaires tend to give an illusion that we are perfect when in fact we have not only physical flaws, but also tend to have ethical flaws when it comes to reporting personal data.


1. Science news. Most People Fudge Numbers On Weight and Height Surveys. Retrieved Jan 29, 2012.

2.Irene GM. Ethnic differences in discrepancies between self-reported and measured weight, height and body mass index.Retrieved Jan 29, 2012.

Reviewed January 30, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jessica Obert

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