Weight concerns and beliefs about obesity in the Norwegian population

  • Serena Tonstad
  • S. Anderssen
  • J. Khoury
  • L. Ose
  • J. Reseland
  • L. Retterstøl


Background: The obesity epidemic is a challenge for health systems globally. There has been a focus on obesity in health systems, but it is also important to understand how people describe their weight and their motivation to lose weight. Objective: To describe the desire to lose weight and beliefs about the causes and treatment of obesity in a representative sample of the Norwegian population. Design: In a cross-sectional survey, 1019 men and women aged 30-60 years took part in a computer-assisted telephone interview conducted in April 2005. The interview was part of an omnibus questionnaire. Results: Of all respondents, 76% describing themselves as overweight and 27% of normal-weight respondents wished to lose weight. The main reason for weight loss was better health among men (40%) and better wellbeing among women (37%). Almost 82% of men and 87% of women believed that heredity is important for obesity. Less than 10% believed that obesity is a disease, while 24 % believed that obesity is a disease and has other causes. In answer to the question of what would be the best treatment for overweight and obesity (with more than one response being possible), the majority (91%) believed that a change of diet and exercise is best, while less than 5% believed that treatment by medical specialists, family physicians, dietitians, commercial groups, prescription medication or surgery is best. Only 7% believed that weight loss after a successful weightloss programme would be completely maintained 2 years later. These percentages did not vary much with age, geographical location, gender or income. Conclusions: The desire to lose weight was motivated primarily by the desire for better health and well-being. A dichotomy exists in the perceptions of obesity: while the role of heredity was widely recognized, very few believed in the effectiveness of medical treatments. Keywords: heredity; obesity treatment; survey; weight loss


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How to Cite
Tonstad, S., Anderssen, S., Khoury, J., Ose, L., Reseland, J., & Retterstøl, L. (2008). Weight concerns and beliefs about obesity in the Norwegian population. Food & Nutrition Research, 25-29. https://doi.org/10.3402/fnr.v50i1.1549