More than half of overweight adults have been fat-shamed by their doctor, according to a shocking new study.
The peer-reviewed study looked at 13,996 adult participants from the countries of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the UK and the US, all of whom were actively enrolled in a globally available behavioural weight management program.
Although previous US-focused studies had identified weight stigma and bias among medical professionals, this research showed fat-shaming is a widespread issue in a variety of countries aside from the US.
Study participants filled in identical online surveys, all of which assessed factors such as experienced weight stigma and internalized weight bias.
These surveys, carried out in the participants respective dominant languages, also looked at healthcare behaviours and experiences. This included ‘perceived quality of care, avoidance or delay of seeking care, experiences with providers, and perceived weight stigma from doctors’.
Among the participants who reported experiencing weight stigma (56–61%), two-thirds of participants in each country reported experiencing weight stigma from doctors. This remained true even after taking into account demographics, BMI, and history of stigma.
Across each of the six countries, those with higher internalized weight bias reported higher levels of healthcare avoidance, increased perceived weight-based judgment from doctors and lower frequency of attending routine check-ups.
Participants also reported less frequent listening and respect from healthcare providers, as well as lower quality of healthcare.
In addition to this, experienced weight stigma was found to be indirectly associated with poorer healthcare experiences through the internalization of weight bias. This was found to be consistent across each of the six countries.
According to the study:
Weight stigma in healthcare is prevalent among adults actively engaged in weight management across different Western countries, and internalized weight bias has negative implications for healthcare even after controlling for BMI.
The similar findings across all six countries underscore the negative consequences of weight stigma on healthcare behaviours and experiences, and emphasize the need for collective international efforts to address this problem.
You can find out more about the findings of this study here.
Featured Image Credit: PA Images
If you’ve been affected by any of the issues in this article and would like to speak with someone in confidence, call the BEAT Eating Disorders helpline on 0808 801 0677. Helplines are open 365 days a year from 9am–8pm during the week, and 4pm–8pm on weekends and bank holidays. Alternatively, you can try the one-to-one webchat.
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