Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The Last Bastion for Unbridled Antipathy? Stigmatization of Obese People in Germany

26.06.2013
What has Chancellor Angela Merkel in common with her fellow Germans? She is overweight – just like more than half of Germany’s population. About 23 percent of males and females are even obese (adipose).

As in countries with comparable rates the growing number of adipose people has, however, not led to a growing acceptance. In Germany there has been a lack of data on this issue. Recent scientific surveys of the Integrated Research and Treatment Center (IFB) AdiposityDiseases in Leipzig have shown, that obesity might be Germany’s last bastion for prejudices, refusal, and stigmatization.

Especially for the USA diverse studies show negative attitudes toward obese people as well as stigmatization, and discrimination. In Germany the same proved to be true, whereas for other diseases like AIDS or disabilities public discourse and campaigns seem to have led to fewer stigmatizing attitudes.

Scientists of the IFB and the Institute of Social Medicine, Occupational and Public Health (ISAP) have investigated how medical students, hospital staff and the public think about obese people and the causes of overweight. In a Germany-wide representative survey participants attributed adjectives like "lazy" versus "industrious” or "active" versus "inactive" to obese children, adults, and senior citizens as well as to normal weight persons shown in pictures (vignettes with weight data). These attributions were analyzed via the so-called Fat-Phobia-Scale (FPS, Bacon et al).

Prejudices, Stigmatization, and Assignment of Guilt for Obesity
99 percent of the survey participants rated obese people of all ages more negatively than normal weight individuals. Over 20 percent attributed unfavourable features like ”inactive”, “shapeless”, “slow” or “has no willpower” to obese persons. Quite impressively, there is not a single adjective pair that is rated equally over the two vignettes. The age of the participants was not associated with higher stigmatization. Higher education and being overweight led to lower FPS scores. Claudia Sikorski, head of the study underlines that “especially obese children were rated amazingly negative. Although the participants held them less responsible for their overweight, they are subject to more negative attribution than obese adults or senior citizens.” This strong stigmatization can well start a vicious circle of stress-induced and psychological disorders, unhealthy eating and activity behaviours and finally more overweight.

As to the causes of obesity, participants could choose internal ones like overeating or lack of activity versus genetic causes and external reasons such as an obesogenic environment. The more obese people were considered to be responsible for their overweight the more stigmatizing was the attribution of features.

Are Attitudes of Medical Students and Health Care Professionals different? A similar survey with 671 medical students revealed that the percentage of aspiring doctors with negative attitudes is just as high as in the general public. Despite a bigger medical knowledge most students hold obese individuals accountable for excess weight. Birte Pantenburg, who conducted the survey, explains that, “however, 44 percent of the participants stated that fighting the overweight epidemic is equally the individuals’ and the society’s responsibility. A majority would furthermore appreciate a stronger focus on obesity in the medical curriculum.” Today, a broad majority of students and citizens deem obesity to be one of the most important health problems in Germany. In the early 2000s only 2 to 3 percent of the population agreed to that.

Nearly 700 health care professionals of the University Hospital of Leipzig participated in a comparable survey. As observed with psychiatric patients, respondents who have more experience with obese patients displayed less negative views. So did women and overweight health care workers. The questionnaire also contained questions on the work-related impact of adiposity.

Health Care System is not Fit for Obese Patients
A majority of nurses, doctors and therapists underlined that providing health care to obese patients is more difficult and over 60 percent stated that the resources and equipments are insufficient. Public health scientist Claudia Sikorski assumes that “the insufficient hospital equipment and the fear of medical complications lead to a higher reluctance to treat obese patients and to more stigmatizing attitudes.” As with medical students the deeper medical knowledge of hospital staff does not reduce negative attributions and the assignment of responsibility predominantly to the patient. After all, 30 percent see genetic causes as strongly relevant for developing obesity. There is evidence that the quality of health care for obese people has decreased due to stigmatizing and depreciative behaviours toward this group of patients.

The phenomenon of stigmatizing obese people is paradox in many ways: Although the rates of obesity are rising, stigmatization does not decline. Furthermore, stigmatization does not change anything to the good, it does not help us to assess people correctly, and it does not motivate obese individuals to lose weight. Prof. Steffi Riedel-Heller, director of ISAP, therefore, stresses the "importance of integrating the scientific findings in the development of anti-stigma-campaigns and of more appropriate obesity-programs."

The Integrated Research and Treatment Center (IFB) AdiposityDiseases is one of eight IFBs in Germany funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. It is a joint center of the Universität Leipzig and the University Hospital Leipzig. Aim of the IFB’s federal funding is to link research and treatment inter-disciplinarily under one roof, so that the treatment of adipose (obese) patients benefits from scientific findings earlier than usually. Presently, the IFB has about 40 research projects, and for patient care there are two outpatient clinics for obese children and adolescents as well as for adults. The IFB will extend adiposity research and treatment continually in the coming years, it is the national reference center for adiposity.

More information:
Doris Gabel M.A.
Integrated Research and Treatment Center (IFB)
AdiposityDiseases
Media and Public Relations
Philipp-Rosenthal-Str. 27
04103 Leipzig, Germany
Phone: + 49 (0)341 / 97-13361
Fax: + 49 (0)341 / 97-15949
E-Mail: presse@ifb-adipositas.de

Susann Huster | Universität Leipzig
Further information:
http://www.ifb-adipositas.de

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Fixating on faces
26.01.2017 | California Institute of Technology

nachricht Internet use in class tied to lower test scores
16.12.2016 | Michigan State University

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Safe glide at total engine failure with ELA-inside

On January 15, 2009, Chesley B. Sullenberger was celebrated world-wide: after the two engines had failed due to bird strike, he and his flight crew succeeded after a glide flight with an Airbus A320 in ditching on the Hudson River. All 155 people on board were saved.

On January 15, 2009, Chesley B. Sullenberger was celebrated world-wide: after the two engines had failed due to bird strike, he and his flight crew succeeded...

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New pop-up strategy inspired by cuts, not folds

27.02.2017 | Materials Sciences

Sandia uses confined nanoparticles to improve hydrogen storage materials performance

27.02.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

Decoding the genome's cryptic language

27.02.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>