Study Finds That Weight Stigma Among Women Leads to Avoidance of Doctor Visits

A new study led by researchers at the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University in Philadelphia, finds that women who are overweight tend to avoid getting the healthcare they need due to a perceived bias against them by healthcare personnel and embarrassment about their body image.

Researchers surveyed more than 300 women for the study. They recorded each participant’s body mass index and asked them questions to determine their feelings about weight stigma, body shame, healthcare stress, and body guilt. The results showed that women with a higher body mass index and who expressed shame, guilt or the other factors mentioned above were more likely than other women to avoid doctor visits.

Janell Mensinger, an associate research professor and director of the Biostatistics Service Center in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at Drexel and the lead author of the study, state that “women with higher body mass index tend to avoid healthcare and the reasons for that are often due to their experiences of weight discrimination. We need to help healthcare professionals understand that seeing a provider is highly charged with stress and anxiety, and there are methods to reduce those feelings. We need to be aware of these system-level problems that are keeping people from going to appointments that would be saving lives.””

Dr. Mensinger is a summa cum laude graduate of West Chester University of Pennsylvania. She holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

The study, “Mechanisms Underlying Weight Status and Healthcare Avoidance in Women: A Study of Weight Stigma, Body-Related Shame and Guilt, and Healthcare Stress,” was published in the journal Body Image. It may be accessed here.

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