Date of Award

1-2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Human Factors Psychology

Advisor

Muth, Eric R

Committee Member

Hoover , Adam W

Committee Member

Gugerty , Leo

Committee Member

Alley , Tom

Abstract

Much emphasis on the fight against obesity is placed on education and food labeling, yet very little research has been performed to measure how much people know about energy balance and the relationship of this knowledge to measures of wellness. The primary objective of this study was to determine if college students' (N = 262) performance on an energy balance questionnaire is associated with measures of wellness. Performance on the questionnaire as a whole was not significantly correlated (p > .05) with body mass index (BMI; rs = .04), percent body fat (rs = .05), waist to hip ratio (rs = -.004), waist circumference (rs = -.02), or blood pressure (rs = -.03). This study also examined whether or not college students can accurately report their BMI, percent body fat, weight status / classification, physical activity level status, daily caloric needs to maintain body weight, and the effect that their daily caloric consumption may have on their body weight over time. The majority of participants underestimated their BMI, χ²(2, N = 256) = 31.23, p = .000. Accuracy of BMI estimation was significantly related to gender, χ²(2, N = 256) = 12.92, p = .002, and BMI classification, χ²(4, N = 256) = 11.20, p = .02. A higher proportion of females and overweight and normal weight participants were accurate in their estimates than male and obese participants. The majority of participants underestimated their percent body fat, χ²(2, N = 258) = 112.21, p = .000. Accuracy of percent body fat estimation was not significantly related to gender, χ²(2, N = 258) = 3.08, p = .22, or BMI classification, χ²(4, N = 258) = 4.52, p = .34. The majority of participants correctly identified their BMI classification, but over 20% of participants misclassified themselves, χ²(2, N = 262) = 238.93, p = .000. Accuracy was significantly related to gender, χ²(2, N = 262) = 6.33, p = .04, and BMI classification, χ²(2, N = 248) = 10.20, p = .006. A higher proportion of females and obese participants were accurate in their estimations than male and normal weight and overweight participants. The majority of participants correctly estimated their physical activity level status, but over 34% of participants overestimated, χ²(2, N = 258) = 89.47, p = .000. Accuracy of physical activity level classification was not significantly related to gender, χ²(2, N = 258) = .03, p = .99, or BMI classification, χ²(4, N = 258) = 1.98, p = .74. The majority of participants underestimated their daily caloric needs, χ²(1, N = 257) = 11.13, p = .000. Accuracy of daily caloric needs estimation was not significantly related to gender, χ²(1, N = 257) = .79, p = .37, or BMI classification, χ²(2, N = 257) = 1.05, p = .59. The majority of participants misjudged the effect that their self-reported daily caloric consumption would have on their body weight over time, χ²(2, N = 256) = 117.90, p = .000. Accuracy of determining weight changes was not significantly related to gender, χ²(2, N = 256) = .90, p = .64, or BMI classification, χ²(4, N = 256) = 3.33, p = .51. The key finding from this study suggests that energy balance knowledge may not be related to measures of wellness. Additionally, there is a significant disparity between individuals' perception of key variables that are the most recommended for tracking health status (e.g., BMI, percent body fat, physical activity level) and reality. Human factors implications are discussed and a call for action is made.

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Psychology Commons

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