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Inaccurate self-report of height and its impact on misclassification of body mass index in postmenopausal women

Mai, Xiaodan PhD, MBBS1; Sperrazza, Jill N. BS2; Marshall, Britt A. MD3; Hovey, Kathleen M. MS1; Wactawski-Wende, Jean PhD1

doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000000778
Original Articles

Objective: Self-reported height is commonly used in population obesity research. Evidence has also shown a positive association between depression and obesity. We examined the extent of height misreporting and its impact on body mass index (BMI) calculations and classification, and explored whether depression is associated with height misreporting.

Methods: The Buffalo Osteoporosis and Periodontal Disease Follow-up Study enrolled 1,015 postmenopausal women between 2002 and 2006. Participants self-reported their height on a questionnaire before stadiometer measurement at the clinical visit. Depressive symptoms were assessed using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. Odds ratios and 95% CI for association between depression and height misreporting were estimated using logistic regression.

Results: Overall, 446 women (43.9%) misreported height by greater than 1/2 inch, of which 296 (29.2%) underestimated and 150 (14.8%) overestimated their height. Height misreporting influenced BMI calculations by ≥1 unit in 12% of women, and influenced classification into WHO BMI categories in 8% of women. After adjusting for age, race, education, and measured BMI, women with significant depressive symptoms were more likely to misreport their height (odds ratio = 1.65, 95% CI, 1.04-2.61).

Conclusions: Height misreporting was common in older women and significantly influenced BMI calculations and classification. Obtaining objective data is thus important for studies investigating obesity-disease associations in this population, especially in those with significant depressive symptoms.

1Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health, School of Public Health and Health Professions, Buffalo, NY

2Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, Buffalo, NY

3Department of Medicine, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Hershey, PA.

Address correspondence to: Jean Wactawski-Wende, PhD, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, 410 Kimball Tower, Buffalo, NY 14214. E-mail:

Received 29 April, 2016

Revised 6 September, 2016

Accepted 6 September, 2016

Funding/support: This study was supported by grant R01DE013505 from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda, MD, to Dr Wactawski-Wende, US Army, Medical Research and Materiel Command, Fort Detrick, MD, grant OS950077 and National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NIH) contracts N01WH32122, HHSN268201100001C, and HHSN268201600001C (Women's Health Initiative) to Dr Wactawski-Wende. The WHI program is funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, US Department of Health and Human Services through contracts HHSN268201600018C, HHSN268201600001C, HHSN268201600002C, HHSN268201600003C, and HHSN268201600004C.

Financial disclosure/conflicts of interest: None reported.

© 2017 by The North American Menopause Society.