HealthDay News — People with obesity are not only commonly stigmatized, but are blatantly dehumanized, according to research published online April 2 in Obesity.
Inge Kersbergen, Ph.D., and Eric Robinson, Ph.D., from the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, used four online studies to investigate whether people (1,506 American, British, and Indian participants) with obesity are blatantly dehumanized (e.g., explicitly considered to be less human and more animal-like) and whether this predicts obesity discrimination.
The researchers found that in all studies, survey respondents believed that people with obesity were less evolved and less human than people without obesity. Thinner respondents demonstrated more pronounced blatant dehumanization of people with obesity. However, the belief that people with obesity were less human was also observed among participants with class I obesity. Dehumanization was predictive of support for policies that discriminate against people living with obesity.
“This is some of the first evidence that people with obesity are blatantly dehumanized. This tendency to consider people with obesity as ‘less human’ reveals the level of obesity stigma,” Robinson said in a statement. “Obesity is a complex problem driven by poverty and with significant genetic, psychological, and environmental components. Blatant or subtle dehumanization of any group is morally wrong and in the context of obesity, what we also know is that the stigma surrounding obesity is actually a barrier to making long-term healthy lifestyle changes.”