“Stigmatization of obesity is common, but whether this stigma extends to people with obesity also being considered less human than individuals without obesity has not been examined.”
‘Blatant Dehumanization of People with Obesity’, a study by Inge Kersbergen and Eric Robinson examined whether people with obesity are deliberately dehumanised and whether this predicts obesity discrimination. This is concerned with understanding whether people with obesity are explicitly considered to be less human and more animal like.
Latest data and information from the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975. Adding that more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight in the year 2016 and over 650 million were obese. Over 340 million children and adolescents aged 5-19 were overweight or obese in 2016.
WHO defines overweight and obesity as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health. In today’s world, obesity is somewhat common. We may not see it on a daily basis but we know it’s there, we know it exists and it’s how we respond to it that builds or break the people with obesity.
In four online studies with 1,506 American, British, and Indian participants, evidence for blatant dehumanisation of people with obesity was examined. The study also examined the extent blatant dehumanisation predicted support for weight discrimination.
According to the researchers, across multiple studies, people with obesity were rated as less evolved and less human than people without obesity. This blatant dehumanisation of those with obesity was evident among participants from the United States, the United Kingdom, and India and was associated with greater support for policies that discriminate against people with obesity.
This study is not the first one to look at this phenomenon, several literature have looked into some facts showing that people with obesity are not only disliked and stigmatised but are also dehumanised.
The study adds that:
“Our findings give rise to further unanswered questions that should be addressed in future research. Firstly, Indian participants blatantly dehumanized people with obesity to a greater extent than UK and US participants. The prevalence of obesity is lower in India than in the United States and the United Kingdom, suggesting that blatant dehumanization of people with obesity may be greater in cultures in which obesity is less prevalent.”
While people with obesity have to deal with their weight, from study to study, there’s growing evidence that they also have to deal with discrimination against their bodies.
One of the biggest questions one might ask is whether these studies expose what’s already in people’s minds or they just tigger the thoughts.