Close to 6 in 10 Americans Want to Lose Weight

by David W. Moore

But few willing to consider surgery

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Last week, during a lecture at the University of South Carolina, Surgeon General Richard Carmona sounded the alarm about overweight Americans. "Obesity is the terror within," he said. "Unless we do something about it, the magnitude of the dilemma will dwarf 9/11 or any other terrorist attack." Government statistics show that about 30% of American adults can be classified as obese.

In line with his warning, a recent Gallup Poll shows that 56% of Americans say they want to lose weight, including 18% who want to lose "a lot" of weight. Another 39% say they want to stay at their current level, while just 4% are trying to gain weight.

People who want to lose weight are more likely to choose exercising over dieting to shed their pounds, but the percentage varies by how ambitious they are. If their goal is to lose only a little weight, people are evenly divided between exercise and diet as the preferred method -- 49% choose each. If they want to lose a lot, however, they are more than twice as likely to favor exercise (67%) over dieting (30%).

Still, among people who want to lose a lot of weight, more than half -- 55% -- say they engaged in less than three hours of strenuous physical exercise in the previous week, including 33% who did no exercise at all.

One extreme method of losing weight is to undergo bariatric surgery, such as gastric bypass, gastric banding, and other stomach surgeries. According to a Web site that compiles statistics on these types of surgeries, typically, people who elect this procedure weigh about 300 pounds and are in their late 30s. While the incidence of this type of surgery rose by 600% in the decade from 1993 to 2003, it still remains a relatively infrequent procedure. The Gallup survey shows that just 1% of people who are trying to lose a lot of weight would "definitely" elect this surgery, and another 1% say they might be interested. Still, while 62% of this group say they would "never" have this surgery, 36% indicate they might consider it as a last resort.

As you may know, some people have had surgery to reduce the size of their stomach as a means of losing weight. Which of the following best describes you -- [ROTATED: you would definitely like to have this surgery, you might be interested in having it but don't know for sure, you would only consider having it as a last resort, (or) you would never have this surgery]?

Definitely
like to have surgery

Might be interested

Only as last resort

Never
have this surgery

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

All who want to lose

2

1

20

75

2

Want to lose a lot

1

1

36

62

3

The desire to lose weight among age groups shows a curvilinear pattern, increasing until high middle-age, and then declining thereafter. Forty-five percent of people under 30 express that desire, compared with 60% in the 30 to 49 age group, and 65% in the 50 to 64 age group. After that, the decline begins -- 55% of the 65 to 74 age group want to lose weight, compared with 40% among people 75 and older.

As expected, the poll shows that women are more likely than men to want to lose weight, 49% vs. 63%, respectively.

But the difference comes mostly in the number who want to lose "a lot" of weight -- 12% of men vs. 24% of women. About the same number of men (37%) want to lose "a little" weight as women (39%).

The gender gap on this issue remains sizable across the age groups, as the curvilinear pattern applies to both men and women. The gap ranges from 10 points in the 65 and older age group to 18 points in the 30 to 49 age group.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,000 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Feb. 9-12, 2006. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

For results based on the 492 national adults in the Form A half-sample and 508 national adults in the Form B half-sample, the maximum margins of sampling error are ±5 percentage points. For results based on the sample of 564 adults who would like to lose weight, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

35. Would you like to [ROTATED: lose weight, stay at your present weight, or put on weight]?

Lose weight

Stay at present

Put on weight

No opinion

%

%

%

%

2006 Feb 9-12

56

39

4

1

2005 Nov 7-10

60

32

8

*

2004 Nov 7-10

62

33

5

*

2003 Nov 3-5

60

32

8

*

2002 Nov 11-14

58

34

8

*

2001 Jul 19-22

59

34

7

*

1999 Jul 22-25

52

39

9

*

1996 Feb 23-25

55

41

4

*

1990 Oct 18-21

52

40

7

1

1957 Aug 29-Sep 4

35

49

11

5

1955 Jun 24-29

37

48

13

2

1954 Jul 2-7

35

50

14

1

1953 Feb 1-5

37

49

13

1

1951

31

50

17

2

* = Less than 0.5%

35. Would you like to [ROTATED: lose weight, stay at your present weight, or put on weight]?

35A. Would you like to lose a lot of weight, or only a little weight?

COMBINED RESPONSES (Q.35-35A)

Lose a lot
of weight

Lose only
a little weight

Stay
at present

Put on
weight

No
opinion

2006 Feb 9-12

18%

38

39

4

1

36. If you had to choose, would you be more likely to try to lose weight -- [ROTATED: by dieting, (or more likely to try to lose weight) by exercising]?

BASED ON 564 ADULTS WHO WOULD LIKE TO LOSE WEIGHT

Dieting

Exercising

No opinion

2006 Feb 9-12

36%

61

3

COMBINED RESPONSES (Q.35, Q.36): BASED ON NATIONAL ADULTS

2006 Feb 9-12

%

Lose weight by dieting

20

Lose weight by exercising

35

Don't want to lose weight

44

No opinion

2

37. As you may know, some people have had surgery to reduce the size of their stomach as a means of losing weight. Which of the following best describes you -- [ROTATED: you would definitely like to have this surgery, you might be interested in having it but don't know for sure, you would only consider having it as a last resort, (or) you would never have this surgery]?

BASED ON 564 ADULTS WHO WOULD LIKE TO LOSE WEIGHT

Definitely
like to have surgery

Might be interested

Only as
last resort

Never
have this surgery

No
opinion

2006 Feb 9-12

2%

1

20

75

2

COMBINED RESPONSES (Q.35, Q.37): BASED ON NATIONAL ADULTS

2006 Feb 9-12

%

Would like to have surgery

1

Might consider surgery

1

Only as a last resort

12

Never have/don't want to lose weight

85

No opinion

1


Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/21859/close-americans-want-lose-weight.aspx
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