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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Body weight dissatisfaction by socioeconomic status among obese, preobese and normal weight women and men: results of the cross-sectional KORA Augsburg S4 population survey

Thomas von Lengerke1*, Andreas Mielck2 and KORA Study Group

Author affiliations

1 Medical Psychology Unit (OE 5430), Hannover Medical School, Carl-Neuberg-Str. 1, 30625, Hannover, Germany

2 Institute of Health Economics and Health Care Management, Helmholtz Center Munich – German Research Center for Environmental Health, Ingolstädter Landstraße 1, 85764, Neuherberg, Germany

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2012, 12:342  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-342

Published: 9 May 2012



Body weight dissatisfaction is an important factor in preventing weight gain and promoting weight loss or maintenance. This study focuses on differences in the rates of body weight dissatisfaction among obese, preobese and normal weight women and men by socioeconomic status within a general adult population in Germany.


Data were analyzed from 4186 adults aged 25 to 74 who participated in a cross-sectional, representative population-based health survey (KORA S4, 1999–2001, Augsburg region/Germany). Body mass was measured anthropometrically and indexed following international standards. Among the 2123 women participating in the survey, 40.3% had a normal weight, 34.9% were preobese, and 24.8% were obese (compared to 25.9%, 51.4% and 22.6% among men, respectively). Body weight dissatisfaction, educational level, household income and occupational status were assessed by computer-aided personal interviewing. An index for socioeconomic status was calculated and categorized into quintiles. Multiple logistic regressions were performed to test for differences in the odds of body weight dissatisfaction across socioeconomic strata in normal weight, preobese and obese groups. Body mass index, age, family status, place of residence and health behaviors were adjusted for.


Overall, being dissatisfied with one’s body weight was more prevalent in women (48.3%) than in men (33.2%). In the normal weight group, no significant differences in the odds of being dissatisfied were found across socioeconomic groups among women or men. Among preobese men, compared to the lowest socioeconomic stratum, increased odds of being dissatisfied with one’s body weight were associated with the highest socioeconomic index group (OR = 2.3, 95% CI: 1.4–3.8), middle and high educational level (OR = 1.6, 95% CI: 1.1–2.3, and OR = 1.9, 95% CI: 1.3–3.7), high income (OR = 1.8, 95% CI: 1.2–2.7), and middle and high occupational status (both OR = 1.8, 95% CI: 1.2–2.6). Among preobese women, the odds of being dissatisfied were only significantly elevated in those with a middle educational level (OR = 1.6, 95% CI: 1.1–2.3). Among obese men, elevated odds were found in the highest socioeconomic index group (OR = 3.7, 95% CI: 1.8–7.5) and in those with a high educational level (OR = 2.3, 95% CI: 1.3–4.1), high income (OR = 2.6, 95% CI: 1.4–4.7), and middle and high occupational status (both OR = 2.2, 95% CI: 1.3–3.6). The odds of dissatisfaction among obese women were not associated with socioeconomic status as a whole, but were associated with a high educational level, albeit with a comparatively large confidence interval (OR = 3.6, 95% CI: 1.0–12.8).


In Germany, body weight dissatisfaction is more prevalent among obese and preobese men in high socioeconomic status groups, a pattern not found in women. The exception to this is a greater prevalence of dissatisfaction among obese and preobese women with a high educational level (albeit inconsistently). Moreover, there is a social gradient in body weight dissatisfaction, especially in obese men, which may partly explain why obesity is more prevalent in men with low socioeconomic status. It also suggests that they are a target group for obesity care in which body weight satisfaction is an important topic.

Obesity; Preobesity; Normal weight; Body weight dissatisfaction; Socioeconomic status; Gender