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One-Third Of Americans Say They Or Someone They Know Have Been “Fat Shamed” In The Past Year

More Americans than ever are dealing with the health consequences of obesity as rates of the disease in the United States and other parts of the world reach an all-time high. But along with diabetes and heart disease that often accompany obesity, more than one-third are also dealing with the issue of “fat shaming” or weight bias either personally or through someone they know, according to a new national survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. The CDC reports that nearly 40% or 93.3 million U.S. adults have obesity1 with 7.7% of them having severe obesity. The majority of Americans say “fat shaming,” a term that describes the act of humiliating someone based on their weight by making mocking or critical comments about their body size, is a common occurrence. Key findings:

– Over half (52%) believe people with obesity are “fat shamed” all or most of the time and 34% say that they themselves or someone they know have experienced it firsthand. Among those with obesity, that number rises to 43% of respondents.

– 85% of all Americans, regardless of their own weight, consider “fat shaming” to be a serious issue – 48% of them think it’s extremely serious or very serious.

– The majority of adults (58%) believe that stereotyping or shaming of people with obesity occurs in the media and in social situations (37%).

– 29% say it frequently affects hiring decisions and work promotions (22%).

– About 1 in 5 say people with obesity are often provided a lower quality care by doctors and other medical professionals (18%).

– 9 out of 10 Americans believe people with severe obesity think the best way to lose weight is through diet and exercise, either on their own or in consultation with a doctor or a personal trainer.

– Little more than half (55%) support weight-loss surgery, which medical experts consider the most effective long-term treatment for severe obesity.

– The public is torn about whether or not obesity is a disease – 53% think it is, and 46% think it’s a lifestyle choice, despite that in 2013, the American Medical Association (A.M.A.), the nation’s largest physician group, officially recognized obesity as a disease that requires a range of interventions for treatment and prevention.

– While the vast majority of Americans (79%) consider weight-loss surgery to be medically appropriate for severe obesity, 19% still think it’s a cosmetic procedure and 24% say they would actually oppose a family member’s or close friend’s decision to have it, while 57% would be proud of their decision and 10% say they would be disappointed or ashamed.

– Obesity medications are even less popular with the American public. Less than half support the use of prescription obesity medications and only a quarter support a friend or family member taking over-the-counter diet pills. In fact, the use of over-the-counter diet pills is opposed by more people (54%) than any other weight loss method.