Social desirability and barriers to the accomplishment of the dietary treatment in overweight women.

Rui Poínhos, F Correia, M Faneca, J Ferreira, C Gonçalves, S Pinhão, J Luís Medina

Abstract


There are several barriers related to the non-accomplishment of the dietary treatment of overweight. Social desirability (SD), defined as the tendency to transmit a culturally accepted image, may bias parameters evaluated in scientific studies.(1) To evaluate SD in overweight women; (2) To evaluate the association between SD and other characteristics; (3) To compare the level of SD between patients evaluated in their first appointment or in subsequent appointments; (4) To evaluate the differences in the level of SD between patients who mention or not each barrier to the accomplishment of the dietary treatment; (5) To evaluate the effect of SD in the frequency of each statement pointed out as a barrier to the accomplishment of the dietary treatment.Sixty-seven women with BMI over 25,0 kg/m2 (mean BMI = 40,0 kg/m2; sd= 5,7) and mean age of 40 years (sd = 11) were evaluated on age, education, height, present and desired weights, perception of heath condition, weight and body image (Likert scale from 1 feels very well to 5 very bad). BMI, weight they desired to loose and corresponding BMI were calculated. The number of previous appointments and the date of the first appointment were registered and the time since the first appointment was calculated. Psychopathologic characteristics were studied with the Psychological General Well-Being Index. Barriers to the accomplishment of the dietary treatment were evaluated by pointing, from a list of 34 sentences mentioning obstacles to its accomplishment, those which patients identified themselves with. SD was evaluated with the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale (MC-SDS).Mean score on the MC-SDS was 20,9 (sd = 4,0). Positive and weak correlations were found between SD and the number of previous appointments and time since the first appointment. Patients with previous appointments show significantly higher levels of SD than those who were evaluated in their first appointment (means of 21,7 and 18,8; p = 0,005). There weren't found significant differences on the level of SD of patients who pointed or not each sentence and it wasn't found a significant effect of SD in the frequency of any sentence.The mean score on the MC-SDS was higher than values found in the majority of studies, which may result from the higher age, lower education and the presence of pathology. Previous contact with the patients seems to influence SD and may bias and make difficult the interpretation of parameters measured by self-report. The identification of barriers to the accomplishment of the dietary treatment seems to be independent from SD.

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