ASMBS: Weight Bias Across Racial and Ethnic Groups

Self-Portrait, Horace PippinThis is definitely a season of renewed meetings. This week, we’ve been trying to follow both the ASMBS and ADA annual meetings at once. New information is flooding out of both of them. Today, from ASMBS, comes a fascinating new study of perceptions about weight bias across diverse racial and ethnic groups.

People with White, Asian, and Pacific Island identities were slightly more likely to recognize the existence of weight bias. But Black and Hispanic individuals were more likely to experience it personally. Summing up the findings and their importance, lead author Matthew Townsend explained:

“Weight bias in this country is pervasive, dangerous and cuts across all racial and ethnic groups. People who face weight bias are less likely to seek medical care and are at an increased risk for depression, weight gain, profound psychological harm, and work place discrimination. Legislation has the potential to create more equitable protection. But unfortunately there are currently no federal laws against weight-based discrimination.”

Survey Research of 1,888 Individuals

Townsend and colleagues (including ConscienHealth’s Ted Kyle) did this survey research with 1,888 U.S. adults. The spark for this research came from the Obesity Action Coalition, led by James Zervios. Zervios told us:

“Understanding and stopping weight bias is a commitment that the OAC made long ago. It’s a personal priority for me. So I’m very proud of this work and proud that ASMBS chose to highlight it at their annual meeting.”

Like any survey research, it merely offers clues into what people are thinking and experiencing. In the case of this research, we’ve learned that weight bias is an issue that people of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds see and experience. What’s more, we see signs that people are recognizing that this kind of bias is not right. That’s because they’re beginning to see obesity as a chronic disease, not a valid excuse for discrimination.

Perspective from ASMBS

ASMBS President Shanu Kothari underscored the importance of this issue:

“Legislation, education, compassion, empathy and understanding are all in short supply when it comes to weight bias and obesity stigma. All of us need to do more to help overcome this insidious issue, which can occur in any setting in both subtle and not so subtle ways.”

Where bias is concerned, recognizing it is a step toward resolving it.

Click here for the abstract of this research, here for the full poster presentation, and here for the press release from ASMBS.

Self-Portrait, painting by Horace Pippin / WikiArt

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June 8, 2022