Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Public Health and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

Differing trends in the association between obesity and self-reported health in Portugal and Switzerland. Data from national health surveys 1992–2007

Pedro Marques-Vidal1*, Paula Ravasco2 and Fred Paccaud1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (IUMSP), CHUV and Faculty of biology and medicine, Lausanne, Switzerland

2 Unidade de Nutrição e Metabolismo, Instituto de Medicina Molecular, Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Public Health 2012, 12:588  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-588

Published: 1 August 2012



The escalating prevalence of obesity might prompt obese subjects to consider themselves as normal, as this condition is gradually becoming as frequent as normal weight. In this study, we aimed to assess the trends in the associations between obesity and self-rated health in two countries.


Data from the Portuguese (years 1995–6, 1998–6 and 2005–6) and Swiss (1992–3, 1997, 2002 and 2007) National Health Surveys were used, corresponding to more than 130,000 adults (64,793 for Portugal and 65,829 for Switzerland). Body mass index and self-rated health were derived from self-reported data.


Obesity levels were higher in Portugal (17.5% in 2005–6 vs. 8.9% in 2007 in Switzerland, p < 0.001) and increased in both countries. The prevalence of participants rating their health as “bad” or “very bad” was higher in Portugal than in Switzerland (21.8% in 2005–6 vs 3.9% in 2007, p < 0.001). In both countries, obese participants rated more frequently their health as “bad” or “very bad” than participants with regular weight. In Switzerland, the prevalence of “bad” or “very bad” rates among obese participants, increased from 6.5% in 1992–3 to 9.8% in 2007, while in Portugal it decreased from 41.3% to 32.3%. After multivariate adjustment, the odds ratio (OR) of stating one self’s health as “bad” or “very bad” among obese relative to normal weight participants, almost doubled in Switzerland: from 1.38 (95% confidence interval, CI: 1.01–1.87) in 1992–3 to 2.64 (95% CI: 2.14–3.26) in 2007, and similar findings were obtained after sample weighting. Conversely, no such trend was found in Portugal: 1.35 (95% CI: 1.23–1.48) in 1995–6 and 1.52 (95% CI: 1.37–1.70) in 2005–6.


Obesity is increasing in Switzerland and Portugal. Obesity is increasingly associated with poorer self-health ratings in Switzerland but not in Portugal.

Obesity; Self-rated health; Population survey; Trends; Portugal; Switzerland