Speak Up

Public Support for Classifying Obesity a Disease

For and Against Obesity as a DiseaseIn a somewhat surprising outcome, Rebecca Puhl and Sai Liu have found substantial evidence of public support for the 2013 AMA decision to classify obesity as a complex, chronic disease.

The majority of a robust national sample of 1,118 of U.S. adults agreed with 11 of 17 reasons favoring classification of obesity as a disease and agreed with only one of 16 reasons against it. Puhl and Liu found that people who agreed with statements favoring the classification were more likely to attribute obesity to physiological and environmental causes. Reasons for opposing the classification were supported by people who expressed more bias against people with obesity, were younger, and blamed people with obesity for their condition.

Interestingly, African Americans expressed greater support for reasons to classify obesity as a disease.

Perhaps this finding is surprising only because of the loud voices of a few people who speak up against considering obesity to be a disease. Those voices range from people who are obviously biased against people with obesity, to others who are condescending toward people with obesity, and finally to fat acceptance activists who resent what they see as a diagnosis rooted in cultural norms of body image.

This research is a nice reminder that the loudest voices don’t always carry the day.

Click here to read more from Medical Express, here to read a commentary from Rebecca Puhl on her study, and here to read the study itself.

Speak Up, photograph © Thomas Hawk / flickr

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