Sizeism, Fat Shaming in Medical Settings Leads to Poor Physical Outcomes

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Sized-based stigmatization can lead to delayed or missed diagnosis.
Sized-based stigmatization can lead to delayed or missed diagnosis.

HealthDay News — Medical discrimination based on patient size can be stressful for patients and have a detrimental effect on their health, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, held from August 3 to 6 in Washington, DC.

Joan C. Chrisler, PhD, a professor of psychology at Connecticut College in New London, and colleagues address the impact of sizeism and stereotypes of obese people on their physical health and well-being.

The researchers note that disrespectful treatment and medical fat shaming is stressful and can result in delays in seeking health care or avoiding interaction with health care providers. Assuming that weight is responsible for or related to presenting complaints can result in misdiagnosis. In a study of more than 300 autopsy reports, patients with obesity were found to be 1.65 times more likely to have significant undiagnosed medical conditions compared with other patients. It is unethical to recommend different treatments for patients with the same condition based on their weight. For patients who experience sizeism, as well as those who experience other forms of oppression, intersectional identities can result in a greater cumulative burden; this stress can be detrimental to patients' health.

"Stigmatization of [individuals with obesity] poses serious risks to their psychological health," Chrisler said in a statement. "Research demonstrates that weight stigma leads to psychological stress, which can lead to poor physical and psychological health outcomes for [people with obesity]."

Reference

Fat shaming in the doctor's office can be mentally and physically harmful [news release]. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2017/08/fat-shaming.aspx. Published August 3, 2017. Accessed August 8, 2017.

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