Public beliefs about the consequences of living with obesity in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland

Eleni Spyreli, L. McGowan, E. Heery, A. Kelly, H. Croker, C. Lawlor, R. O’Neill, Cc Kelleher, M. McCarthy, P. Wall, Mm Heinen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: This study aimed to capture public beliefs about living with obesity, examine how these beliefs have changed over time and to explore whether certain characteristics were associated with them in a nationally representative sample of adults from the Republic of Ireland (RoI) and Northern Ireland (NI). Methods: A cross-sectional survey employed a random quota sampling approach to recruit a nationally representative sample of 1046 adults across NI and RoI. Telephone interviews captured information on demographics; health behaviours & attitudes; and beliefs about the consequences of obesity (measured using the Obesity Beliefs Scale). Univariable analyses compared beliefs about the consequences of living with obesity between participants with a self-reported healthy weight and those living with overweight or obesity, and non-responders (those for whom weight status could not be ascertained due to missing data). Multiple linear regression examined associations between obesity-related beliefs and socio-demographics, self-rated health and perceived ability to change health behaviours. Multiple linear regression also compared changes in obesity-related beliefs between 2013 and 2020 in the RoI. Results: Higher endorsement of the negative outcomes of obesity was significantly associated with living with a healthy weight, higher self-rated health, dietary quality and perceived ability to improve diet and physical activity. Those who lived with overweight, with obesity and non-responders were less likely to endorse the negative consequences of obesity. Those living with obesity and non-responders were also more likely to support there is an increased cost and effort in maintaining a healthy weight. Comparison with survey data from 2013 showed that currently, there is a greater endorsement of the health benefits of maintaining a healthy weight (p < 0001), but also of the increased costs associated with it (p < 0001). Conclusion: Beliefs about the consequences of maintaining a healthy body weight are associated with individuals’ weight, self-rated health, diet and perceived ease of adoption of dietary and exercise-related improvements. Beliefs about the health risks of obesity and perceived greater costs associated with maintaining a healthy weight appear to have strengthened over time. Present findings are pertinent to researchers and policy makers involved in the design and framing of interventions to address obesity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1910
JournalBMC public health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The present work arose from a larger project which was financially supported by SafeFood.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Island of Ireland
  • Living with overweight and obesity
  • Obesity beliefs

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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