Obese people are often “weight-shamed” by doctors and nurses — worsening their problem and causing them to wrongfully blame themselves for the condition, according to a new study.
Fat-shaming by medical professionals leads patients to feel humiliated and anxious about appointments — making them more likely to overeat, according to research from the University of London.
Researchers examined 25 previous studies centered on 3,554 health professionals and found evidence of “strong weight bias” — including that doctors and nurses tend to assume overweight people are lazy, according to the report, published in the journal of Obesity Reviews.
“[They] believe their patients are lazy, lack self-control, overindulge, are hostile, dishonest, have poor hygiene and do not follow guidance,” Dr. Anastasia Kalea, who authored the study, told the UK Guardian.
The research shows healthcare professionals generally believe patients who don’t lose weight aren’t following doctor-recommended “eat less/exercise more regimes,” even though other factors may be at play, she said.
During the research, the doctor said she was “shocked” to find that many obese patients were happier with online medical sessions during the COVID-19 pandemic because they suffered less fat-shaming.
“They felt that they were not judged from the moment they leave their house to go and see their doctor,” she told the outlet.
The study concludes that medical professionals should be trained in “non-stigmatizing weight-related communication.”
Tam Fry, the chairman of the National Obesity Forum, said doctors and nurses should take responsibility for the role they play in the UK’s obesity epidemic.
“It is shameful that the condition continues to be regarded by health professionals as being solely a personal problem, little to do with them and it’s disgraceful that they stigmatize patients for being overweight,” said Fry, who was not involved in the study.
“This is the last thing a patient wants to hear from professionals who they trust will help them.”
In the US, roughly 30% of adults are overweight and 42% are obese, according to recent data.