Doctors are as biased against obesity as the general public, according to a new study.
The research, led by Janice Sabin, Ph.D., from the University of Washington in Seattle, tested the anti-fat biases of nearly 400,000 participants, including 2,000 medical doctors.
Sabin said all the participants, including the doctors, reported a strong preference for thin people in a web-based test that measures both implicit and explicit anti-fat bias.
Implicit attitudes about weight were strong in both male and female doctors, but female doctors had a significantly weaker implicit anti-fat bias than males, she reported.
Doctors who were underweight, normal or overweight had a strong anti-fat bias, while doctors who were obese themselves had a moderate bias.
The authors also found a significant difference in the strength of self-reported anti-fat attitudes between doctors of different weight groups (underweight, normal or overweight vs. obese and normal vs. overweight)
“We found that MDs’ implicit and explicit attitudes about weight follow the same general pattern seen in the very large public samples that hold strong implicit and explicit anti-fat bias,” the researchers said in the study, which was published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Whether there is an association between these attitudes and patient reports of weight discrimination in quality of health care, has yet to be studied, the researchers noted.
“It is not surprising that implicit and explicit weight bias exists among doctors, similar to the general population,” Sabin said.
“It is important for physicians to be aware that this bias exists and to ensure that personal bias does not have a negative impact on the doctor-patient relationship.”
Source: Public Library of Science