Stigmatization of obese individuals by human resource professionals: an experimental study
1 Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, Medical University Hospital Tübingen, Osianderstr. 5, 72076, Tübingen, Germany
2 Institute of Sports Science, University of Tübingen, Wilhelmstr. 124, 72074, Tübingen, Germany
3 Knowledge Media Research Center, Konrad Adenauer Str. 40, 72072, Tübingen, Germany
BMC Public Health 2012, 12:525 doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-525Published: 16 July 2012
Weight-related stigmatization is a public health problem. It impairs the psychological well-being of obese individuals and hinders them from adopting weight-loss behaviors. We conducted an experimental study to investigate weight stigmatization in work settings using a sample of experienced human resource (HR) professionals from a real-life employment setting.
In a cross-sectional, computer-based experimental study, a volunteer sample of 127 HR professionals (age: 41.1 ± 10.9 yrs., 56% female), who regularly make career decisions about other people, evaluated individuals shown in standardized photographs regarding work-related prestige and achievements. The photographed individuals differed with respect to gender, ethnicity, and Body Mass Index (BMI).
Participants underestimated the occupational prestige of obese individuals and overestimated it for normal-weight individuals. Obese people were more often disqualified from being hired and less often nominated for a supervisory position, while non-ethnic normal-weight individuals were favored. Stigmatization was most pronounced in obese females.
The data suggest that HR professionals are prone to pronounced weight stigmatization, especially in women. This highlights the need for interventions targeting this stigmatization as well as stigma-management strategies for obese individuals. Weight stigmatization and its consequences needs to be a topic that is more strongly addressed in clinical obesity care.