More than HALF of overweight people say they face prejudice due to their size

More than HALF of overweight people say they face prejudice due to their size – mainly from their own FAMILIES

  • Survey found more than half of overweight people face stigma due to their size
  • They said family members were the main source of prejudice about their weight
  • Researchers also found that those surveyed were more likely to avoid healthcare
  • Almost 14,000 people in six countries — including the US and UK — took part

More than half of overweight people face prejudice because of their size, according to a new study, and their own family members are the biggest culprits. 

Researchers also found that those experiencing weight stigma were more likely to avoid healthcare due to a perceived lack of respect from doctors.

During childhood and adolescence were when those surveyed said they endured the most prejudice.

Stigma: More than half of overweight people face prejudice because of their size, according to a new study, making them more likely to avoid healthcare and doctors (stock)

In the UK, obesity is a fairly common problem, estimated to affect up to a quarter of adults, and a fifth of children. 

The NHS explained: ‘It’s very important to take steps to tackle obesity because, as well as causing obvious physical changes, it can lead to a number of serious and potentially life-threatening conditions.

‘These include: type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, some types of cancer, such as breast cancer and bowel cancer, and stroke.

‘Obesity can also affect your quality of life and lead to psychological problems, such as depression and low self-esteem.’

In the study, researchers from the University of Connecticut Rudd Centre for Food Policy and Obesity set out to understand whether overweight and obese people feel stigmatised based on their weight. 

Almost 14,000 overweight people from six different countries — Australia, Canada, France, the US, Germany and the UK — took part in the study.

More than three quarters (76-88 per ccent )said they experienced weight stigma from family members, while classmates were the next most common (72-81 per cent), then doctors (63-74 per cent), co-workers (54-62 per cent), and finally friends (49-66 per cent).

‘The fact that family members are such common sources of weight stigma across these countries indicates a collective need to address weight stigma within the family environment, and to help families engage in more supportive communication with their loved ones,’ said Rebecca Puhl, lead author of the study.

‘For many people, these experiences begin in youth from parents and close family members, and they can last for many years and have long-term negative consequences.’

The results also revealed that across all six countries, those with higher levels of self-blame for their weight were more likely to avoid healthcare, obtained less frequent checkups, and perceived their healthcare quality to be lower. 

Dr Puhl added: ‘Our results also provide a compelling reason to step up international efforts to reduce weight biases held by medical professionals.

‘We must prioritize efforts to establish a healthcare culture free of weight stigma, and we also need to work collaboratively to develop supportive interventions to help people when they do experience this stigma.’ 

More information on the study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, can be found here. 


Obesity is defined as an adult having a BMI of 30 or over.

A healthy person’s BMI – calculated by dividing weight in kg by height in metres, and the answer by the height again – is between 18.5 and 24.9. 

Among children, obesity is defined as being in the 95th percentile.

Percentiles compare youngsters to others their same age. 

For example, if a three-month-old is in the 40th percentile for weight, that means that 40 per cent of three-month-olds weigh the same or less than that baby.

Around 58 per cent of women and 68 per cent of men in the UK are overweight or obese. 

The condition costs the NHS around £6.1billion, out of its approximate £124.7 billion budget, every year.

This is due to obesity increasing a person’s risk of a number of life-threatening conditions.

Such conditions include type 2 diabetes, which can cause kidney disease, blindness and even limb amputations.

Research suggests that at least one in six hospital beds in the UK are taken up by a diabetes patient.

Obesity also raises the risk of heart disease, which kills 315,000 people every year in the UK – making it the number one cause of death.

Carrying dangerous amounts of weight has also been linked to 12 different cancers. 

This includes breast, which affects one in eight women at some point in their lives.

Among children, research suggests that 70 per cent of obese youngsters have high blood pressure or raised cholesterol, which puts them at risk of heart disease.

Obese children are also significantly more likely to become obese adults. 

And if children are overweight, their obesity in adulthood is often more severe.  

As many as one in five children start school in the UK being overweight or obese, which rises to one in three by the time they turn 10.