Obese people are "blatantly dehumanised", according to a new study. Many countries across the globe are facing what can only be described as an obesity epidemic.
A third of American adults and a quarter of adults in the UK are medically categorised as being obese. "Obesity is a complex problem driven by poverty and with significant genetic, psychological and environmental components," Eric Robinson, a Reader at the University of Liverpool, told a news portal. Adding, "Blatant or subtle dehumanisation 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."
While previous research has found that there is a stigma about obesity, as well as prejudiced views, this new study wanted to understand whether these kind of views are more extreme than we release. The study was conducted by a team from the University of Liverpool, which was led by Dr Inge Kersbergen and Dr Eric Robinson. Do people believe that individuals with obesity are less evolved and human than those who are not? That is the question researchers hoped to find the answer to through this study.
For the study, a group of close to 1500 participants from various parts of the globe including India, UK and USA answered questions through an online survey. Another factor, researchers wanted to take into consideration was whether thinner people had more prejudiced views about obesity. To do this, they noted the BMI of every participant who completed the study.
On average, participants rated people who are obese as'less evolved' and human. "Blatant dehumanisation was most common among thinner participants but was also observed among participants who would be medically classed as being 'overweight' or 'obese'," according to the study. Those who blatantly dehumanise obese people were also found to be more supportive of health policies and discriminated people because of their weight.
"Our results expand on previous literature on obesity stigma by showing that people with obesity are not only disliked and stigmatised but are explicitly considered to be less human than those without obesity," Inge Kersbergen, now a research fellow at the University of Sheffield, told a news portal. Adding, "The fact that levels of dehumanisation were predictive of support for policies that discriminate against people with obesity suggests that dehumanisation may be facilitating further prejudice."
The study's findings reveal just how widespread the level of obesity stigma is across the world. "It's too common for society to present and talk about obesity in dehumanising ways, using animalistic words to describe problems with food (e.g. 'pigging out') or using images that remove the dignity of people living with obesity," Robinson told a news portal.
The study was originally published in journal Obesity.