Doctors Biased Against Fat Patients, University of Washington Study Finds

Published: Nov 30, 2012

Doctors have similar levels of bias against people who are overweight as the general public, a new study says. Additionally, physicians are likely not aware of their own biases, the study showed. "The most striking thing is that physicians are like others in society, and hold negative attitudes about weight," said study researcher Janice Sabin, an assistant professor at the University of Washington. "Our study did not look at behavior, so we don't know whether or not this actually affects the patient-provider relationship," she added. Previous research identified weight biases in doctors, but the new study found that their level of bias is similar to that of the public. Sabin and her colleagues included nearly 360,000 participants in their study, including 2,284 medical doctors. The researchers used a computer test designed to measure both explicit biases, of which people are aware, and implicit biases, which people do not recognize they hold. Results showed that female doctors were less biased against obese people than male doctors. "Even though there was a slight difference, bias was strong among both men and women," Sabin told MyHealthNewsDaily. Obese doctors were generally more sympathetic to overweight people, the study also found. Weight bias could affect the nearly two-thirds of people in the U.S. who are overweight or obese, according to researchers.

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