A new study has shown that doctors have a similar bias against overweight people as the general public, though they are likely not even aware of their bias.
NBC News reports that study researcher Janice Sabin, an assistant professor at the University of Washington, stated:
“The most striking thing is that physicians are like others in society, and hold negative attitudes about weight. Our study did not look at behavior, so we don’t know whether or not this actually affects the patient-provider relationship.”
While a previous study established doctors have a small weight bias, the most recent study shows that their levels of bias are similar to the public’s.
Sabin, along with her colleagues, studied 360,000 people including 2,284 medical doctors. Using a computer test designed to measure both explicit and implicit biases, they were able to discover that female doctors are less biased toward overweight patients than male doctors. Sabin stated:
“Even though there was a slight difference, bias was strong among both men and women.”
The study also showed that obese doctors were usually more sympathetic toward overweight patients. Researchers believe that weight bias could affect almost two-thirds of people in the US who fall in the overweight or obese category, according to Fox News.
Rebecca Puhl, the director of research at the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University, stated that the study proves the need to reeducate doctors about weight bias. Puhl, who was not involved in the study, stated:
“Weight bias jeopardizes patients’ emotional and physical health, and that some patients may even avoid future health care because of weight bias in the health care setting.”
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