People with obesity discriminated in all aspects of life, global research reveals

Industry
11/10/2018 - 09:07
New research revealed this World Obesity Day, today (11 October) claims that people with obesity “experience stigma and discrimination across all aspects of their lives.”

Published by the World Obesity Federation, the study sought to highlight the global extent of weight stigma by examining online media in 22 countries, with each and every one showing ‘some bias’ but South Africa, Hong Kong and Italy found to be the most stigmatising.

Claiming that discriminating people with obesity “affects their life chances and physical and mental health, while ignoring the multiple and complex causes that lead to obesity,” World Obesity Federation chief executive, Johanna Ralston, added: “Weight discrimination is rife across the world.

“People are being blamed for obesity, but decades of public health research show that obesity is complex and that there are multiple causes.

“Despite this, society at large continues to treat people with obesity unfairly. Stigmatising obesity undermines people’s health and makes it harder to seek support. It’s time this ended.

“This World Obesity Day we’re calling on the media to reshape the narrative around obesity, and for social media companies to clamp down on weight abuse online.

“Changing the narrative around diseases and conditions can transform public perceptions and improve quality of life and outcomes for patients.  As obesity rates continue to rise, we’re also appealing to the medical education authorities and providers to improve specialist education in medical schools, as people with obesity are often dismissed by their healthcare professional because of their weight without being properly diagnosed.”

The research – published in ‘Clinical Obesity’ – also found that people with obesity are ‘viewed negatively’ because of their weight and are likely to be victims of discrimination, leading to physical and mental health consequences “deterring people from seeking medical care and leading to social isolation.”

To help prevent this, the foundation has today launched a new Twitter handle – @endweightstigma – calling on anyone and everyone to share examples of stigmatising language or images by tweeting @endweightstigma or using the hashtag #endweightstigma.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, commented: “Everyone has the right to a healthy life in a world, where healthy choices are easy to make.

“Sadly in our modern world, consuming a healthy diet and enjoying an active lifestyle is often hard. For many people, this translates to obesity and ill health.

“But governments can address this. Making healthy food easily available in communities, workplaces and schools is essential to protecting people from obesity.

“Restricting marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children, taxing sugary drinks, and banning industrial trans-fat in foods attacks the main drivers of obesity. Providing more opportunities for active transport and leisure is essential to promoting better health.”

How likely or unlikely do you think people are to discriminate against someone because of the following?

Category

Likely to be discriminated against – Brazil

Likely to be discriminated against – South Africa

Likely to be discriminated against – UK

Ethnic background

69%

75%

60%

Gender

73%

55%

40%

Sexual orientation

86%

78%

56%

Height

47%

34%

22%

Being overweight

85%

84%

62%

Health (including mental
health)

78%

75%

57%

Have you ever felt judged because of your weight in the following?

Situation

% of people with obesity that have felt judged because of their weight – Brazil

% of people with obesity that have felt judged because of their weight – South Africa

% of people with obesity that have felt judged because of their weight – UK

At school

48%

56%

39%

At work

46%

46%

31%

In social situations

58%

63%

45%

In restaurants

38%

41%

28%

At home (family)

56%

44%

33%

Healthcare settings (e.g. hospital or GP surgery)

51%

52%

45%

On public transport

44%

41%

27%

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