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What is Obesity Discrimination?

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  • Written By: Matt Brady
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 18 September 2016
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Obesity discrimination is an unfair bias toward overweight people. Studies have found that the prevalence of discrimination against obese people in society can negatively impact overweight individuals in many areas of life, such as work and health care. Prejudice against overweight individuals may stem from the perception that obesity is a result of a lazy lifestyle and bad eating habits. That often incorrect assumption may lead people to treat overweight individuals unfairly.

Obesity discrimination may stem from a tendency to assume that individuals are to blame for their excessive weight gain. While that's certainly true in some cases, excessive weight gain is often caused by something that overweight individuals can't control, such as a debilitating injury, genetics, or a disease. Horrible as it sounds, discrimination may also stem from a feeling of being disgusted by obese people. Of course, such inclinations are often baseless and unfair.

Studies have shown that obesity discrimination impacts the work place, affecting everything from the hiring process to the way an overweight individual is treated on the job. For example, an employer might choose not to hire an individual who's more qualified than other candidates because that individual is overweight. Overweight individuals might also be treated differently than their peers in the work place; studies suggest obese individuals are less likely to receive promotions and that their job security is less stable.

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Obesity discrimination also has a great impact on health care. Research indicates that health care providers may be more judgmental of obese individuals. Some primary care physicians may be less attentive to treating obesity than other ailments as well. Overweight individuals seem to pick up on the negative vibes: studies show obese individuals tend to delay going to the doctor even for routine visits.

Obesity discrimination can also be found in other areas of life. Obese individuals may receive less quality service at restaurants and retail stores, for example. Discrimination may even manifest itself in family life. Strange as it may seem, one study suggests that parents provide less college funding to overweight children.

Unfortunately, few laws exist to protect against obesity discrimination. In most places, employers can get away with rejecting someone for a job based solely on weight, as hate laws don't currently protect obese individuals in many places. Individuals and advocacy groups are working to raise awareness of obesity discrimination, which may eventually culminate in the passage and implementation of laws that help protect obese people from cruel and unfair treatment.

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