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Keywords:

  • Height;
  • measurement error;
  • self-report;
  • weight

Summary

Obesity is a rapidly increasing public health problem, with surveillance most often based on self-reported values of height and weight. We conducted a systematic review to determine what empirical evidence exists regarding the agreement between objective (measured) and subjective (reported) measures in assessing height, weight and body mass index (BMI). Five electronic databases were searched to identify observational and experimental studies on adult populations over the age of 18. Searching identified 64 citations that met the eligibility criteria and examined the relationship between self-reported and directly measured height or weight. Overall, the data show trends of under-reporting for weight and BMI and over-reporting for height, although the degree of the trend varies for men and women and the characteristics of the population being examined. Standard deviations were large indicating that there is a great deal of individual variability in reporting of results. Combining the results quantitatively was not possible because of the poor reporting of outcomes of interest. Accurate estimation of these variables is important as data from population studies such as those included in this review are often used to generate regional and national estimates of overweight and obesity and are in turn used by decision makers to allocate resources and set priorities in health.