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Many Obese Americans Struggle With Stigma, Discrimination, Poll Finds
Date:8/24/2012

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Aug. 23 (HealthDay News) -- As if the physical woes that accompany obesity aren't bad enough, many obese Americans say they face discrimination and stigma because of their weight, a new Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll found.

And the levels of stigma rise along with weight, and affect both people's working and social lives, the poll found.

Fifty-two percent of people who fell into the "obese" or "morbidly obese" categories believe they have been discriminated against when applying for a job or promotion. About two-fifths said they have been socially shunned, and 36 percent felt they've been discriminated against when being seated in theaters or restaurants.

Much of this discrimination may still be socially acceptable: According to the poll, a majority of people (61 percent) do not consider negative remarks about a person's weight to be offensive.

The findings suggest that "the obesity epidemic is not just a huge health-care issue, it is also a social issue with many people, especially those who are morbidly obese -- feeling that they have been stigmatized, treated unfairly, or discriminated against because of their weight," said Humphrey Taylor, chairman of The Harris Poll.

"This is not surprising when many people do not believe that it is very offensive to make critical remarks about people's weight or for employers to use weight as a factor when deciding whom to hire," he said.

The online survey was conducted in July and involved nearly 2,300 U.S. adults. Among other questions, the poll asked participants their height and weight to calculate their body mass index (BMI, a ratio of weight to height). A BMI of 30 to 35 is considered obese, and anything higher than that falls into the morbidly obese category. Seventeen percent of respondents were obese while 13 percent were morbidly obese. Thirty-two percent were normal weight and 29 per
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