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.