Weight based discrimination according to “Bias, Discrimination and Obesity” (Obesity Research vol. 9, no. 12, December 2001) authors Rebecca Puhl and Kelly Brownwell describe obese people as the “last acceptable targets of discrimination”, starting as early as the age of three years old. Puhl and Brownwell point to a landmark study that was conducted in the 1960’s; children were asked to choose from other children with various disabilities, disfigurements, crutches and wheelchairs and to decide by ranking which child they would most likely befriend and which child they would least likely befriend. The obese child was chosen the least likely to be befriended majority of the time.
Teachers were not excluded when it came to having negative feelings towards obese children. In one survey, teachers revealed that they thought that for a child to be obese was “the worst possible thing that can happen to a person.” College students are also subject to weight based discrimination according to the same authors. Not only do obese college students have difficulty getting accepted into institutions , but obese women’s chances were 31 percent compared to obese men’s 41 percent. It was also noted that compared to normal weight students, women in particular, obese students received less financial help from their families.
Weight based discrimination is very prevalent in the work force. This is especially so if the position requires public contact like direct customer service or sales. Studies show that not only do the obese employees deal with disparities in wages, benefits and promotions, but, obese women suffer the most compared to obese men. Heavy women earn significantly less than heavy men. Promotions are even more difficult to obtain. Many terminated suspiciously have taken their cases to courts seeking justice.
According to the research conducted by Dalton Conley, director of the New York University Center for Advanced Social Research and Rebecca Glauber (Dalton Conley and Rebecca Glauber, Gender, Body Mass and Economic Status,” Working Paper No. 11343, National Bureau of Economic Research, May 2005), overweight women suffer more than their normal weight counterparts. Overweight men, however, fared about the same as their normal weight counterparts. These two researchers pointed out that the heavier the women became, the more her BMI increased, the less likely for this women’s income was to improve. “Occupational prestige”, or the higher the level of the job, or the type of position became below average. As little as a one percent increase in the BMI reduced family income potential for the heavy working woman. Income can be reduced 0.6 percent and occupational prestige 0.4 percent. Marriage chances are hindered greatly for obese women. If the woman does become married, her husband’s earning potential is less compared to a woman with normal weight. Overweight women are more likely to divorce compared to normal weighted counterparts.
Weight based discrimination is also found in the healthcare field. Research shows that obese patients have sometimes canceled their appointments out of fear of having to be weighed, to be told to undress in front of the staff or ridiculed in some manner whether intentional or not.
More than 400 doctors were asked to name particular characteristics that made them feel uncomfortable, reluctance, or dislike-over one third of the physicians stated obesity with that coming fourth to drug addiction, alcoholism, and mental illness. Obesity was also linked together with negative qualities like poor hygiene, being hostile, lying and refusal to follow directions for care. Family doctors surveyed provided evidence that two thirds of those same doctors said that their own patients who were obese lacked self-control. Less than forty percent considered their patients to be lazy. Nurses who are usually the first ones to see the patients before the doctors actually come in have been surveyed and nearly half have expressed they were not fond of caring for obese patients, with a shocking 31 percent stating they would rather not care for ANY obese person at all. Puhl and Brownwell also surveyed over 1200 physicians who revealed that most of them were not okay with treating heavy patients and did not give them the same quality care they would have normal weight people. Only 18 percent would refer a heavy person to a weight loss program, with less than 42 percent referring a mildly obese person to a weight loss program.
It would be easy to assume that physicians who specialized in treatment for the obese would be the exception. Not according to Marlene B. Schwartz et al, who administered a standardized test looked at bias to 389 health care professionals in the industry. Test results were shared in “Weight Bias among Health Professionals Specializing in Obesity” (Obesity Research, vol. 11, no. 9, September 2003). There was to be discovered a lot of anti fat discrimination coming from even the professionals who provided actual care to the patients. Descriptions like “lazy, stupid, and worthless” were reported, with the younger professionals, being constantly overwhelmed with the media’s glorification of thinness was especially harsh.
Obese people need preventive treatment care the most, however they receive less preventive services. According to ” Associations between Obesity and Receipt of Screening Mammography, Papanicolaou Tests and Influenza Vaccination: Results from the Health and retirement study (HRS) and Asset and Health Dynamics among the Oldest Old (AHEAD) Study” (American Journal of Public Health, vol. 95, no. 9 September 2005), Ostbye et al looks at a person’s BMI and their likely hood of receiving preventive care. 4439 women aged fifty to sixty years from the Health and Retirement study and the Asset and Health Dynamics among the Oldest Old Study 4045 women and 2154 men aged seventy or older participated. 78 percent of the obese women were given mammograms compared to those who were not obese. They were less likely to receive flu shot, The people who need the most healthcare were being neglected because of their size.
The moral of the story is this: if you want to get a better education, so that you may get a better source of income, and marry that wonderful someone you have always dreamed about-get to the gym.
Anderson, Ross E. 2003. Obesity: Etiology, Asessment, Treatment and Prevention. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, Inc.
Berg, Francie M. 2001. Women Afraid to Eat: breaking Free in Today’s weight Obsessed World. Hettinger, ND: Healthy Weight Network
Goodman,W. Charisse. 1995. The Invisible woman: confronting weight Prejudices in America. Carlsbad, CA: Gurze Books
National Association to Advance fat Acceptance. 2006. “The Issues.” Oakland, CA:: National Association to advance Fat Acceptance. www.NAAFA.org
Wexler, Barbera. 2007. Weight in America: Obesity, eating Disorders and Health Related Risks. Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale