Open Access Open Badges Research article

Weight misperception amongst youth of a developing country: Pakistan -a cross-sectional study

Muhammad Danish Saleem*, Gulrayz Ahmed, Juwaria Mulla, Syed Sami Haider and Mustafa Abbas

Author affiliations

Medical Student, Dow Medical College, Dow University of Health Sciences, Baba-E-Urdu Road, Karachi, Pakistan

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2013, 13:707  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-707

Published: 2 August 2013



Weight misperception is the discordance between an individual’s actual weight status and the perception of his/her weight. It is a common problem in the youth population as enumerated by many international studies. However data from Pakistan in this area is deficient.


A multi-center cross-sectional survey was carried out in undergraduate university students of Karachi between the ages of 15–24. Participants were questioned regarding their perception of being thin, normal or fat and it was compared with their Body Mass Index (BMI). Measurements of height and weight were taken for this purpose and BMI was categorized using Asian cut offs. Weight misperception was identified when the self-perceived weight (average, fat, thin) did not match the calculated BMI distribution. Chi square tests and logistic regression tests were applied to show associations of misperception and types of misperception (overestimation, underestimation) with independent variables like age, gender, type of university and faculties. P-value of <0.05 was taken as statistically significant.


42.4% of the total participants i.e. 43.3% males and 41% females misperceived their weight. Amongst those who misperceived 38.2% had overestimated and 61.8% had underestimated their weight. Greatest misperception of was observed in the overweight category (91%), specifically amongst overweight males (95%). Females of the underweight category overestimated their weight and males of the overweight category underestimated their weight. Amongst the total participants, females overestimated 8 times more than males (OR 8.054, 95% CI 5.34-12.13). Misperception increased with the age of the participants (OR 1.114, 95% CI 1.041-1.191). Odds of misperception were greater in students of private sector universities as compared to public (OR 1.861, 95% CI: 1.29-2.67). Odds of misperception were less in students of medical sciences (OR 0.693, 95% CI 0.491-0.977), engineering (OR 0.586, 95% CI 0.364-0.941) and business administration (OR 0.439, 95% CI 0.290-0.662) as compared to general faculty universities.


There was marked discrepancy between the calculated BMI and the self-perceived weight in the youth of Karachi. Better awareness campaigns need to be implemented to reverse these trends.

Weight misperception; BMI; Pakistan; Undergraduate students; Youth; Overweight; Underweight; Overestimation; Underestimation