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      How Accurate is Web-Based Self-Reported Height, Weight, and Body Mass Index in Young Adults?

      , BND 1 , , BND, PhD , 1 , , PhD 2 , , BSC, Dip Nutr&Diet, PhD 1

      (Reviewer), (Reviewer), (Reviewer)

      Journal of Medical Internet Research

      JMIR Publications Inc.

      Internet, height, weight, body mass index, self-report

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          Web-based approaches are an effective and convenient medium to deliver eHealth interventions. However, few studies have attempted to evaluate the accuracy of online self-reported weight, and only one has assessed the accuracy of online self-reported height and body mass index (BMI).


          This study aimed to validate online self-reported height, weight, and calculated BMI against objectively measured data in young Australian adults.


          Participants aged 18-35 years were recruited via advertisements on social media sites and reported their current height and weight as part of an online survey. They then subsequently had the same measures objectively assessed by a trained researcher.


          Self-reported height was significantly overestimated by a mean of 1.36 cm (SD 1.93; P<.001), while self-reported weight was significantly underestimated by –0.55 kg (SD 2.03; P<.001). Calculated BMI was also underestimated by –0.56 kg/m 2 (SD 0.08; P<.001). The discrepancy in reporting resulted in the misclassification of the BMI category of three participants. Measured and self-reported data were strongly positively correlated (height: r=.98, weight: r=.99, BMI: r=.99; P<.001). When accuracy was evaluated by BMI category and gender, weight remained significantly underreported by females ( P=.002) and overweight/obese participants ( P=.02).


          There was moderate to high agreement between self-reported and measured anthropometric data. Findings suggest that online self-reported height and weight can be a valid method of collecting anthropometric data.

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          Most cited references 27

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            A comparison of direct vs. self-report measures for assessing height, weight and body mass index: a systematic review.

            Obesity is a rapidly increasing public health problem, with surveillance most often based on self-reported values of height and weight. We conducted a systematic review to determine what empirical evidence exists regarding the agreement between objective (measured) and subjective (reported) measures in assessing height, weight and body mass index (BMI). Five electronic databases were searched to identify observational and experimental studies on adult populations over the age of 18. Searching identified 64 citations that met the eligibility criteria and examined the relationship between self-reported and directly measured height or weight. Overall, the data show trends of under-reporting for weight and BMI and over-reporting for height, although the degree of the trend varies for men and women and the characteristics of the population being examined. Standard deviations were large indicating that there is a great deal of individual variability in reporting of results. Combining the results quantitatively was not possible because of the poor reporting of outcomes of interest. Accurate estimation of these variables is important as data from population studies such as those included in this review are often used to generate regional and national estimates of overweight and obesity and are in turn used by decision makers to allocate resources and set priorities in health.
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              Effectiveness of web-based interventions in achieving weight loss and weight loss maintenance in overweight and obese adults: a systematic review with meta-analysis.

              The objectives of this systematic review are to evaluate the effectiveness of web-based interventions on weight loss and maintenance and identify which components of web-based interventions are associated with greater weight change and low attrition rates. A literature search from 1995 to April 2008 was conducted. Studies were eligible for inclusion if: participants were aged >or=18 years with a body mass index >or=25, at least one study arm involved a web-based intervention with the primary aim of weight loss or maintenance, and reported weight-related outcomes. Eighteen studies met the inclusion criteria. Thirteen studies aimed to achieve weight loss, and five focused on weight maintenance. Heterogeneity was evident among the studies with seven research questions examined across interventions of varying intensity. Seven studies were assessed for effectiveness based on percentage weight change, with four studies deemed effective. Although the four meta-analyses suggest meaningful weight change, it is not possible to determine the effectiveness of web-based interventions in achieving weight loss or maintenance due to heterogeneity of designs and thus the small number of comparable studies. Higher usage of website features may be associated with positive weight change, but we do not know what features improve this effect or reduce attrition.

                Author and article information

                J Med Internet Res
                Journal of Medical Internet Research
                JMIR Publications Inc. (Toronto, Canada )
                January 2014
                07 January 2014
                : 16
                : 1
                1Faculty of Health and Medicine Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition University of Newcastle CallaghanAustralia
                2Faculty of Health and Medicine Priority Research Centre for Translational Neuroscience and Mental Health University of Newcastle CallaghanAustralia
                Author notes
                Corresponding Author: Tracy L Burrows Tracy.Burrows@
                ©Kirrilly Pursey, Tracy L Burrows, Peter Stanwell, Clare E Collins. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (, 07.01.2014.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.

                Short Paper


                self-report, body mass index, weight, height, internet


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