Weight Bias & Stigma > Health Care

Weight bias is common in health care settings. Rudd Center research studies have shown that health care professionals are among the most common sources of bias. This includes physicians, nurses, psychologists, dietitians, medical students, and even professionals who specialize in obesity. Some professionals within these groups perceive patients with overweight as unintelligent, unsuccessful, weak-willed, unpleasant, overindulgent, and lazy. The frustration that clinicians feel when trying to help patients lose weight may contribute to this bias. Rather than acknowledging the limited effectiveness of current weight loss treatments, health care professionals tend to blame their patients for non-compliance and lack of self-discipline.

Weight bias in health care settings can cause serious harm. Research has demonstrated that patients of higher weight are more likely to avoid, cancel, or delay important preventive services. When asked why, patients with obesity attribute these decisions to disrespectful treatment and negative attitudes from providers, unsolicited advice to lose weight, embarrassment about being weighed, and bad experiences with medical equipment that is too small for them. The percentage of patients who reported these barriers increased with body mass index.