Fatphobia ‘universal’ as people face discrimination around the world, study says

A study has claimed that overweight individuals face “universal bigotry” around the world and that they’re likely to be discriminated against by medics.

Nine out of ten overweight people said they have experienced stigma for their size in the research which compared the experience of adults in the UK, USA, Germany, France, Australia and Canada.

And, almost three quarters (74%) of those questioned said that they had experienced “fat phobia” from healthcare workers.

Many said that doctors had told them that unrelated issues were caused by being overweight.

It’s thought that about 28% of adults in England are obese while a further 36% are overweight.

In the United States, three out of four people over 20 (71.6%) are overweight or obese.

And participants in the research said that they’d received weight stigma from classmates (72% to 81%), coworkers (54% to 62%) and pals (49% to 66%).

Meanwhile, over 50% of adults said they avoided healthcare, obtained less frequent check ups and perceived their healthcare quality to be lower.

In every country, weight stigma was most frequent in childhood and adolescence with distress being highest during these periods.

Professor Rebecca Puhl, deputy director of the Rudd Centre for Food Policy and Obesity, said: “Despite decades of studies on weight stigma, international comparative research is lacking.

“The time is overdue to recognize weight stigma as a legitimate social injustice and public health issue in many countries around the world, and multinational research can inform efforts to address this problem on a global scale.

“The fact that family members are such common sources of weight stigma across these countries indicates a collective need to address weight stigma within the family environment and to help families engage in more supportive communication with their loved ones.”

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She added: “For many people, these experiences begin in youth from parents and close family members, and they can last for many years and have long-term negative consequences.

“Our results also provide a compelling reason to step up international efforts to reduce weight biases held by medical professionals.

“We must prioritise efforts to establish a healthcare culture free of weight stigma, and we also need to work collaboratively to develop supportive interventions to help people when they do experience this stigma.”

The study was published in the International Journal of Obesity.

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