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Obesity-related stigma linked to political views and welfare attitudes

Press release issued: 7 September 2023

Views around obesity are closely tied up with political values and wider social attitudes, suggesting that tackling weight stigma may require tackling other forms of stigma, new research led by the University of Bristol has found.

People with obesity experience widespread shaming and discrimination in everyday life. Obesity-related stigma is now recognised as a public health issue: it is linked to worse mental health, and people with obesity often report delaying or avoiding healthcare appointments due to stigmatizing interactions with doctors. However, what determines attitudes around obesity is not well understood.  

 The research has explored how attitudes to obesity are predicted by demographic factors, a person’s political values, and their views about people claiming welfare, who in the media are often associated with obesity. The research investigated the role of core political values, and perceptions of welfare recipients, who are frequently linked with obesity in public and political discourse. Finally, the researchers assessed to what extent demographic and socioeconomic differences in weight-stigmatizing attitudes are explained by factors like individual body mass index (BMI), values, and beliefs. 

The research found that, after taking age and gender into account, weight-stigmatizing attitudes were linked with more authoritarian values, more right-wing attitudes on economic issues, and more stigmatizing views about welfare recipients. 

Read the Full University of Bristol news item

Weight stigma, welfare stigma, and political values: evidence from a representative British survey’ by Amanda Hughes and Daniel McArthur in Social Science & Medicine

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