Stigmatizing Attitudes Toward Obesity in a Representative Population-based Sample




Objective: The aim of this study was to determine stigmatizing attitudes toward obesity in the population, and its related psychological and sociodemographic determinants.

Methods and Procedures: In a representative population-based survey (N = 1,000), computer-assisted telephone interviewing was used to assess stigmatizing attitudes toward obesity, causal attributions of obesity, the labeling of obesity as an illness, perceptions about prevalence, severity, and chronicity of obesity, support of obesity prevention, and sociodemographic characteristics.

Results: Of the 1,000 participants, 23.5% (n = 235) had stigmatizing attitudes toward obesity, 21.5% (n = 215) did not have stigmatizing attitudes toward obesity, and 55.0% (n = 550) had attitudes that were undetermined with respect to stigmatization. Predictors of greater stigmatization were more causal attributions of obesity to individual behavior, less education, and older age, while causal attributions of obesity to heredity and labeling obesity as an illness predicted less stigmatization. Stigmatizing attitudes were significantly associated with stronger overall support of obesity prevention, but less readiness to support prevention financially.

Discussion: Our results indicate that stigmatizing attitudes toward obesity are prevalent in the population. Information about the etiology of obesity and the clinical relevance of this condition could prove useful for destigmatization efforts.