Do the Obese Greenlanders consider themselves Obese? Body Size Perception and Obesity in Relation to Demographic Factors

Anni Brit Sternhagen Nielsen (Lecturer)

Activity: Talks and presentationsTalks and presentations in private or public companies


Background: A recent survey revealed 53.6% Greenlanders to be overweight. As opposed to the Westernised world overweight is well-established among well-educated Greenlanders. The ideal body image in affluent populations is generally slim (especially among women), while it is more voluptuous in populations, where periodical food scarcity has been, or is common. Obesity problems among Greenlanders should therefore also been addressed in a cultural context. This paper examines body-size perception among Greenlanders and its relation to socio-demographic factors.

Methods: Analyses included 2,247 West Greenlanders, age>18 years, from a cross-sectional study comprising para-clinical examination, an interview including socio-demographic conditions, and a questionnaire including 9 silhouette drawings ranging from very thin to very obese (0-10). The participants were asked to identify their body figure, ideal body figure, and subjective perception of own body size. We examined, split by sex, the bivariate effects of BMI on body-size perception, and analysed whether the relation depended on age, education and residence.

Results: The bivariate analyses showed that the identified body figure rose by increasing BMI levels: men classified as normal-weight, pre-obese (25<BMI<30) and obese (BMI>30) chose figures 3.4, 4.9 and 6.0 (mean), whereas women chose figures 3.5, 4.9 and 5.9. A similar association was found for ideal body figure and BMI among women: 3.6, 3.9 and 4.5. The figure best depicting the ideal body was similar for pre-obese and obese men (mean 4.3 vs. 4.5, p=0.11), whereas ideal body differed among normal-weight and obese men (mean 4.0 vs. 4.5, p<0.0001).

The multivariate analyses revealed only age to be associated with ideal body figure among men: ideal body image was larger among younger age-groups as opposed to 60+ years. No socio-demographic factors were associated with the ideal body image among women: only BMI was influential.

Conclusion: A larger ideal body figure chosen by younger men was unexpected, but may reflect being overweight is more common in Greenland than decades ago. Women's preference of an ideal body figure reflecting their BMI may indicate that obesity is not seen as unattractive.

Emneord: Greenland, body ideal, BMI
Period13. Jul 2009
Event titleFolk spiser ikke n-3 fedtsyrer, de spiser måltider
Event typeConference
Conference number14
LocationYellowknife, Canada


  • Greenland
  • body ideal
  • BMI