Obesity Doctors Are Weight Biased

Obesity specialists may be biased against their own patients. The psychologists, physicians and researchers who treat the overweight apparently look down on their heavy patients, according to a study published in Obesity Research.

During an international obesity conference held in Quebec City in 2001, health professionals were asked to take a test measuring their prejudices against the overweight. While less judgmental than most people, the specialists did show a strong anti-fat bias: they associated fat people with laziness and stupidity, and connected them to words like “bad” and “worthless.”

"The fact that even health professionals have the bias reinforces how incredibly pervasive and powerful the stigma of obesity is in our society," says author Marlene Schwartz, a psychologist from Yale University.

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Some 389 people participated in the study. Nearly all did obesity-related research or worked directly with overweight patients.

Younger women were the most biased. Schwartz notes that they "are the group at highest risk for body dissatisfaction." The least biased were those who where overweight themselves, or had chubby friends.

An estimated 61 percent of adults were overweight in 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control. That year, 20 percent of Americans--38.8 million people--were considered clinically obese.

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