Perceived weight versus Body Mass Index among urban Aboriginal Australians: do perceptions and measurements match?


Correspondence to
Associate Professor Joan Cunningham, Menzies School of Health Research, PO Box 41096, Casuarina, Northern Territory 0811. Fax: (08) 89275187; e-mail:


Objective: To examine the relationship between perceived body weight and measured Body Mass Index (BMI) among urban Aboriginal Australian adults.

Methods: We compared responses to a question on perceived weight with BMI based on measured health and weight among 248 Aboriginal volunteers aged ≥15 years who took part in a larger health study in the Darwin area between September 2003 and March 2004. Logistic regression was used to examine associations between socio-economic, demographic and cultural factors and under-assessment of weight.

Results: Being male and having diabetes were significantly associated with under-assessment of weight. Despite under-assessment being common, most participants with a BMI ≥25 – and almost all (>90%) those with BMI≥25 plus high waist circumference – described themselves as overweight.

Conclusions: Study participants with BMI≥25 were generally able to classify themselves appropriately as overweight.

Implications: Lack of awareness of weight is unlikely to represent a major barrier to engaging Aboriginal people. However, other barriers exist, and both individual-level and environmental/structural approaches are required to reduce the burden of obesity among Aboriginal Australians.