Protocol - Involuntary Weight Loss

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Protocol Name from Source:

Weight History


Publicly available


An interviewer-administered two-item questionnaire assessing weight loss of more than five pounds in the past 12 months and an individual's intent to lose weight.


1. Have you lost 5 or more pounds at any time over the past 12 months?

[ ] 1 Yes (if yes, go to 1b)

[ ] 0 No (go to question 2)

[ ] 8 Don't know (go to question 2)

[ ] 7 Refused (go to question 2)

1b. How much weight did you lose in the past 12 months? If you are not sure, please make your best guess.

[ ] ___ ___ ___ pounds

[ ] 8 Don't know/don't remember

[ ] 7 Refused

2. Were you trying to lose weight?

[ ] 1 Yes (go to question 2b)

[ ] 0 No (go to question 3)

[ ] 8 Don't know (go to question 3)

[ ] 7 Refused (go to question 3)

2b. What methods did you use to lose weight?

[ ] -1 Reduced food intake (decreased quantities of all food eaten)

[ ] -1 Limiting your intake to only 1 or 2 types of food (e.g., ate only grapefruit or only lean meats)

[ ] -1 Reduced fat intake

[ ] -1 Use of fat/caloric modified foods (low fat, fat-free)

[ ] -1 Use of a liquid diet formula such as Slim-fast or Optifast

[ ] -1 Commercial weight loss program (Weight Watcher, Jenny Craig, or self-help group (Over Eaters Anonymous, TOPS)

[ ] -1 Decreased alcohol intake

[ ] -1 Increased exercise

[ ] -1 Increased smoking

[ ] -1 Diet pills (prescription or nonprescription)

[ ] -1 Stomach surgery/intestinal bypass

[ ] -1 Consulted with dietician/physician/other professional

[ ] -1 Other (Please specify): _______________________

3. What do you think caused this weight loss? (Interviewer note: Please check all that apply)

[ ] -1 Illness (please specify): _____________

[ ] -1 Surgery (please specify): ____________

[ ] -1 Medications

[ ] -1 Stressful time

[ ] -1 Loss of appetite

[ ] -1 Change in eating habits

[ ] -1 Change in exercise habits/amount of physical activity

[ ] -1 Other (please specify): _______________________

[ ] -1 Don't know

Personnel and Training Required

The interviewer must be trained to conduct personal interviews with individuals from the general population. The interviewer must be trained and found to be competent (i.e., tested by an expert) at the completion of personal interviews. The interviewer should be trained to prompt respondents further if a "don't know" response is provided.

Equipment Needs

The PhenX Working Group acknowledges that these questions can be administered in a computerized or noncomputerized format (i.e., paper-and-pencil instrument). Computer software is necessary to develop computer-assisted instruments. The interviewer will require a laptop computer/handheld computer to administer a computer-assisted questionnaire.


Requirement CategoryRequired
Average time of greater than 15 minutes in an unaffected individualNo
Major equipmentNo
Specialized requirements for biospecimen collectionNo
Specialized trainingNo

Mode of Administration

Life Stage:

Adult, Senior

Specific Instructions:

Although the original Health, Aging, and Body Composition Study was conducted in the geriatric population, the PhenX Geriatrics Working Group acknowledges this protocol may be useful with other adult populations.

Research Domain Information

Release Date:

July 2, 2018


A questionnaire assessing involuntary weight loss in the past 12 months.


Involuntary weight loss is a common problem in the geriatric population and is associated with diseases, frailty, disability, and an increased risk of mortality. It is important not only to identify weight loss but also to assess whether the weight loss was intentional (did the patient try to lose weight) or unintentional (occurring without any effort to lose weight).

Selection Rationale

These questions were used in the Health, Aging, and Body Composition Study, and recognized as making a valuable contribution to the study of body composition and strength in old age and how these changes relate to an individual's health and disability.





Process and Review

The Expert Review Panel has not reviewed this measure yet.


Health, Aging, and Body Composition Study, Weight History, Question 52 and 52b version 1.1a 8/22/97

General References

Lee, J. S., Kritchevsky, S. B., Tylavsky, F. A., Harris, T., Everhart, J., Simonsick, E. M., ... Newman, A. B. (2004). Weight-loss intention in the well-functioning, community-dwelling elderly: Associations with diet quality, physical activity, and weight change. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 80, 466-474.

Weyant, R. J., Newman, A. B., Kritchevsky, S. B., Bretz, W. A., Corby, P. M., Ren, D., ... Harris, T. (2004). Periodontal disease and weight loss in older adults. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 52, 547-553.

Lee, J. S., Kritchevsky, S. B., Harris, T. B., Tylavsky, F., Rubin, S. M., & Newman, A. B. (2005). Short-term weight change in community-dwelling older adults. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 82, 644-650.

Lee, J. S., Kritchevsky, S. B., Tylavsky, F., Harris, T., Simonsick, E. M., Rubin, S. M., & Newman, A. B. (2005). Weight change, weight change intention, and the incidence of mobility limitation in well-functioning community-dwelling older adults. The Journals of Gerontology. Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 60, 1007-1012.

Newman, A. B., Lee, J. S., Visser, M., Goodpaster, B. H., Kritchevsky, S. B., Tylavsky, F. A., ... Harris, T. B. (2005). Weight changes and the conservation of lean mass in old age: The Health, Aging and Body Composition Study. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 82, 872-878.

Koster, A., van Gool, C. H., Kempen, G. I., Penninx, B. W., Lee, J. S., Rubin, S. M., ... Kritchevsky, S. B. (2010). Late-life depressed mood and weight change contribute to the risk of each other. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 18, 236-244. 

Murphy, R. A., Nalls, M. A., Keller, M., Garcia, M., Kritchevsky, S. B., Tylavsky, F. A., ... Harris, T. B. (2013). Candidate gene association study of BMI-related loci, weight, and adiposity in old age. The Journals of Gerontology. Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences,  68, 661-666.

Murphy, R. A., Patel, K. V., Kritchevsky, S. B., Houston, D. K., Newman, A. B, Koster, A., ... Harris, T. B. (2014). Weight change, body composition, and risk of mobility disability and mortality in older adults: A population-based cohort study. Journal of the American Geriatric Society, 62, 1476-1483.

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