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The relationship between quality of life and perceived body weight and dieting history in Dutch men and women


OBJECTIVES: (1) To study the relationship between quality of life (QoL) and measured and perceived weight and dieting history in Dutch men and women; (2) to assess the effect of weight loss over a 5 y period on QoL.

DESIGN: A cross-sectional study, in a sub-sample longitudinal over 5 y.

SUBJECTS: A total of 2155 men and 2446 women, aged 20-59 and recruited from the general population from three towns in The Netherlands.

MEASUREMENTS: Body weight, height, self-administered questionnaire including questions concerning demographic variables and weight loss practices as part of the Dutch Monitoring project on Risk Factors for Chronic Disease (MORGEN). The Rand-36 questionnaire was used as the QoL measure.

RESULTS: In men, measured overweight (body mass index, BMI>25 kg/m2) was not associated with any dimension of QoL after adjustment for age, educational level and perceived overweight. Perceived overweight was related to reduced scores for general health and vitality. This relationship was independent of measured obesity. A history of repeated weight loss was associated with reduced scores for role functioning due to both physical and emotional problems. In women, measured overweight was significantly associated with lower scores for five out of eight QoL dimensions and perceived overweight with three: general health, vitality and physical functioning. A history of frequent weight loss was related to significantly reduced scores in six dimensions. However, only with history of frequent weight loss, and uniquely in women, was there a significant reduction in scores on mental health and limited emotional role functioning. Measured and perceived overweight and frequent weight loss were all related to reduced scores for physical functioning. Longitudinal data indicate that in older women weight gain of 10% body weight or more was associated with a significant deterioration in QoL.

CONCLUSIONS: When looking at measures of QoL in relation to overweight it is important to separate the effects of perception of weight status and history of weight loss. We observed that the latter two factors were associated with reduced scores on several dimensions of QoL, particularly in women. These associations were observed to be independent of body weight.

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The authors would like to thank the MORGEN-project Steering Group and administrative staff as well as the field workers of the participating municipal health services in Doetinchem, Maastrict and Amsterdam for their contributions to the study. The study was made possible by contributions from the Ministry of Health, Sports and Welfare of The Netherlands, and an NHMRC Fellowship from the Commonwealth of Australia to Dr CM Burns. The authors would like to thank Dr Thang Han for his help in the analysis of the data and Professor Damien Jolley for his help with data presentation.

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Burns, C., Tijhuis, M. & Seidell, J. The relationship between quality of life and perceived body weight and dieting history in Dutch men and women. Int J Obes 25, 1386–1392 (2001).

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  • quality of life
  • body weight
  • perceived weight
  • dieting

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