Paper summary: Attitudes to obesity

This paper presents new findings on attitudes in Britain towards obesity and what might be done to reduce its prevalence.

Despite appreciating some of the health risks, people tend not to recognise obesity when it does exist – and especially so in men.

Obesity is frequently regarded as a problem for individuals and health care professionals rather than society more generally, and those who are obese are often stigmatised. There is significant support for actions aimed at reducing levels of obesity.

Key findings

People tend to overestimate what obesity means in terms of body size 

  • 54% correctly identify when a woman is obese
  • 39% correctly do this for a man

There is widespread understanding of some, but not all, of the health risks

  • over 80% understand that people who are obese are more likely to have heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes
  • 34% understand the increased risk of liver disease

People who are obese are often the object of stigmatising attitudes

  • 53% agree that “most overweight people could lose weight if they tried” 
  • 75% believe that a person who is not very overweight would be more likely than one who is very overweight to be offered an office manager’s job

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