Population Health Metrics
Data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) show a larger-than-expected increase in mean BMI between 1996 and 1997. Proxy-reports of height and weight were discontinued as part of the 1997 NHIS redesign, suggesting that the sharp increase between 1996 and 1997 may be artifactual.
We merged NHIS data from 1976–2002 into a single database consisting of approximately 1.7 million adults aged 18 and over. The analysis consisted of two parts: First, we estimated the magnitude of BMI differences by reporting status (i.e., self-reported versus proxy-reported height and weight). Second, we developed a procedure to correct biases in BMI introduced by reporting status.
Our analyses confirmed that proxy-reports of weight tended to be biased downward, with the degree of bias varying by race, sex, and other characteristics. We developed a correction procedure to minimize BMI underestimation associated with proxy-reporting, substantially reducing the larger-than-expected increase found in NHIS data between 1996 and 1997.
It is imperative that researchers who use reported estimates of height and weight think carefully about flaws in their data and how existing correction procedures might fail to account for them. The development of this particular correction procedure represents an important step toward improving the quality of BMI estimates in a widely used source of epidemiologic data.
Reither, Eric N., and Rebecca L. Utz. 2009. "A procedure to correct proxy-reported weight in the National Health Interview Survey, 1976-2002.” Population Health Metrics 7(2):1-10.