Study Shows Coloradans Think Obesity is “Someone Else’s Problem”

New research by LiveWell Colorado points to residents’ misperceptions about obesity as a primary reason for apathy; mothers of young children are most receptive to healthy living message

DENVER--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Coloradans have a difficult time accurately identifying obesity—especially when it comes to their own weight and lifestyle—and typically underestimate what it means to be obese or even overweight. As a result, many don’t realize that their weight puts them at risk for chronic disease, and therefore do not see obesity as a problem they need to personally address. This was one of the major findings of new research from LiveWell Colorado, a nonprofit organization committed to reducing and preventing obesity in Colorado.

HealthCare Research conducted the research for LiveWell Colorado in November and December 2010, surveying 1,100 Colorado residents across the state by phone and online surveys.

“It’s not surprising that people’s view of obesity is skewed by the images they see on the news and on TV programs like NBC’s The Biggest Loser,” said Tracy Boyle, LiveWell Colorado Vice President of Marketing and Communications. “Most of these images are of morbidly obese individuals, overshadowing the fact that nearly 55 percent of Colorado adults and more than a quarter of our children are overweight or obese. We feel this misperception helps explain why many people are not more motivated to make healthy changes, and we hope we can now address that more successfully.”

The obesity rate in Colorado has doubled since 1995. Although Colorado is considered the “leanest” state for adults, it is ranked 23rd for childhood obesity, and is rising at the second-fastest rate in the nation.

The research also showed that while most Coloradans think they eat healthily and exercise enough, they do not think their friends are doing nearly as well – making obesity “someone else’s problem.” For example, well over half of survey participants said they and their children eat enough fruits and vegetables each day and get enough physical activity, but thought only one-third of their friends were doing as well.

To compare, according to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment’s “Weight of the State” report, fewer than 10 percent of Colorado’s children eat vegetables at least two to three times a day, and about one quarter of adults eat the recommended five servings per day. Fifty five percent of adults and children reported getting the recommended amount of physical activity, according to that report.

The new Colorado study tested peoples’ ability to identify obesity in five test subjects, and few were able to do so accurately. Respondents were asked to identify five test subjects based upon their age, height and weight in terms of being a healthy weight, overweight or obese. Only one-out-of-twenty residents were able to correctly identify all five subjects. The one that caused the greatest difficulty was a description of an obese ten-year-old child, which only 24 percent of respondents were able to correctly identify. Mothers who have children in this age group fared only marginally better - correctly identifying the child subject as obese only 27 percent of the time.

Once survey participants were told the correct answers to these questions, and given the health risks associated with obesity, 42 percent stated they were now more concerned about their health as it relates to obesity. Specifically, women, mothers, overweight individuals, parents of overweight children, Hispanics and African Americans expressed the most concern and willingness to make changes.

“We commissioned this research to better understand what would motivate Coloradans to make healthy changes and really drive a culture change around health,” said Boyle. “It’s exciting to learn that once mothers connect to obesity personally and understand that they and their families are at risk, they are much more motivated to make changes in their homes and communities.”

According to the survey data, mothers are the most likely to agree that they, as parents, are responsible for solving the obesity problem in Colorado. Additionally, mothers, especially those with children under eight years of age, are more likely than any other demographic group to be concerned about childhood obesity, even if their child is not currently overweight.

The research was conducted by HealthCare Research in preparation for an upcoming mass media and grass roots campaign designed to motivate healthy changes in an effort to reduce and prevent obesity in Colorado. The campaign is scheduled to launch in April. A complete overview of LiveWell Colorado’s research will be presented during a free online webinar on March 1, 2011 at noon. To register for this webinar, visit The full study is available to media upon request.

About the LiveWell Colorado Obesity Marketing Research

HealthCare Research, a division of Market Perceptions, Inc., surveyed 1,100 randomly selected Colorado residents. Interviews were conducted primarily by telephone in both English and Spanish, with an option to complete the survey online. Respondents were screened to ensure that they were at least 18 years of age, and the sample was balanced to represent the state of Colorado in terms of geography, ethnicity and income. A supplemental sample of cellphone-only households was included to improve the representativeness of the results. The maximum margin of sampling error on 1,100 interviews is +/- 3 percentage points at the 95 percent level of confidence. A series of nine focus groups were also conducted with mothers statewide.

About LiveWell Colorado

LiveWell Colorado is a nonprofit organization committed to preventing and reducing obesity in Colorado by promoting healthy eating and active living. Leading a comprehensive approach, LiveWell Colorado inspires and advances policy, environmental and lifestyle changes that aim to provide every Coloradan with access to healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity in the places they live, work, learn and play. For more information about LiveWell Colorado, visit


For LiveWell Colorado
GroundFloor Media
Ashley Cohen, 303-522-0783
[email protected]

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