New Study Shows Weight Bias Among Mental Health Professionals

Sep 6, 2013

Credit Tony Alter / Creative Commons

People with eating disorders like obesity could be getting treatment from a therapist with their own inherent weight bias, that's according to a new study from the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

The survey of 329 mental health specialists revealed that while almost all of them agreed it's important to treat obese patients with compassion and respect, they admitted that many of their colleagues have negative biases about their obese patients. 56 percent said they heard or witnessed other professionals making negative comments and fat jokes about obese patients in their care.

"Professionals who specialize in eating disorders are not immune to weight bias" says Rebecca Puhl, lead author of the study, and deputy director of the Rudd Center. " It's a societal bias that has become socially acceptable. What this tells us is that efforts to try and reduce weight bias in the field of eating disorders is certainly warranted".

The study also revealed that 33 percent of those surveyed felt the obese patients in their care have poor self control, and only 36 percent believe their obese patients will actually follow through on their prescribed treatments.

The new study appears online in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.