LONDON, October 11, 2018 /PRNewswire/ --
World Obesity Federation reveals that n ine in ten adults in South Africa polled believe people with obesity are viewed negatively because of their weight
New research reveals that 89% of adults in South Africa believe people with obesity are viewed negatively because of their weight and 84% of South Africans believe people are likely to discriminate against someone who is overweight. This is higher than other forms of discrimination, including sexual orientation (78%), ethnic background (75%), or gender (55%).
The findings show that people with obesity experience stigma and discrimination across all aspects of their lives. Three in five South African adults living with obesity have felt judged because of their weight in clothes shops or in social situations and, worryingly, around half have felt judged in healthcare settings (52%) and gyms (44%).
Weight stigma is also felt online. Nearly one in three people with obesity have felt judged online because of their weight. A separate analysis by the World Obesity Federation has found nearly 10,000 tweets with stigmatising language on social media since January 2018, which include body shaming and abuse.
Professor Carel le Roux, an international obesity expert who graduated from the University of Pretoria says:
"If there is one country in the world that understands how wrong discrimination is then it is South Africa. Moreover South Africans have always shown themselves willing to take on the big questions of our time and to right the wrongs of the past. Here is another opportunity for South Africa to be the moral compass of the world and to #endweightstigma."
The impact of weight stigma and discrimination is far-reaching. It can damage career prospects, with nearly than one in three South Africans (30%) admitting that out of two equally qualified candidates they would appoint the one with a healthy weight over an overweight candidate. Stigma also has physical and mental health consequences: it's been found to deter people from seeking medical care and can lead to social isolation.
In terms of what influences weight stigma, World Obesity believes the media have a pivotal role to play. More than half of South African adults think the news media (55%) and popular media (62%), such as TV and magazines, worsen the public's opinion of people with obesity. The World Obesity Federation has also published a report - based on research published in Clinical Obesity - highlighting the prevalence of negative images and language used when reporting on obesity in online media. South African media were found to be among the world's most stigmatising, based on the images used to accompany articles about obesity.
In light of the findings, World Obesity is calling out examples of discrimination in a bid to #endweightstigma this World Obesity Day.
Johanna Ralston, Chief Executive of the World Obesity Federation says:
"Weight discrimination is rife across the world. It's time this ended. People are being blamed for obesity, but decades of public health research show that obesity is complex and there are multiple causes. Stigmatising obesity undermines people's health and makes it harder to seek support.
"This World Obesity Day we're calling on the media to reshape the narrative around obesity and for social media companies to clamp down on weight abuse online. Changing the narrative around diseases and conditions can transform public perceptions and improve quality of life and outcomes for patients."
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said:
"Everyone has the right to a healthy life in a world where healthy choices are easy to make. Sadly in our modern world, consuming a healthy diet and enjoying an active lifestyle is often hard. For many people, this translates to obesity and ill health.
"But governments can address this. Making healthy food easily available in communities, workplaces and schools is essential to protecting people from obesity. Restricting marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children, taxing sugary drinks, and banning industrial trans-fat in foods attacks the main drivers of obesity. Providing more opportunities for active transport and leisure is essential to promoting better health."
To coincide with World Obesity Day, a new Twitter handle - @endweightstigma - has been launched to highlight examples of discrimination. Anyone can highlight good and bad practices by businesses, institutions or individuals when they see examples of stigmatising language or images by tweeting @endweightstigma or using the hashtag #endweightstigma. More information about how to help combat weight stigma can be found on the World Obesity website (http://www.worldobesity.org).
World Obesity has also published an Image Bank for media, picture editors and healthcare professionals to use when writing about obesity. This includes a range of non-stigmatising visuals in different settings, providing a more accurate reflection of living with obesity.
SOURCE World Obesity Federation