Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Negative attitudes toward fat bodies going global, study finds

Date:
March 29, 2011
Source:
University of Chicago Press Journals
Summary:
Stigma against overweight people is becoming a cultural norm around the world, even in places where larger bodies have traditionally been valued. That's according to a new cross-cultural study of attitudes toward obesity.

Stigma against overweight people is becoming a cultural norm around the world, even in places where larger bodies have traditionally been valued. That's according to a cross-cultural study of attitudes toward obesity to be published in the April issue of Current Anthropology.

Researchers from Arizona State University surveyed people in nine diverse locations around the world and found negative attitudes toward fat bodies in every one. The results suggest a rapid "globalization of fat stigma" in which overweight people are increasingly viewed as ugly, undesirable, lazy, or lacking in self control, the researchers say.

In the U.S., slim bodies have been idealized and fat ones stigmatized for several decades. But that has not been true of the rest of the world, says Alexandra Brewis, a biological anthropologist and one of the study's authors.

"Previously, a wide range of ethnographic studies have shown that many human societies preferred larger, plumper bodies," Dr. Brewis said. "Plump bodies represented success, generosity, fertility, wealth, and beauty."

But those fat-positive values are quickly giving way to a more negative Western way of looking at obesity, such as symbolizing personal failing.

The researchers surveyed people in Mexico, Argentina, Paraguay, the U.S., and the U.K. Also included were American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and Tanzania -- cultures that have traditionally been thought of as fat-positive. People were asked if they agreed or disagreed with a series of statements about body size. Some statements were fat-negative ("Fat people are lazy"), others were fat-positive ("A big woman is a beautiful woman").

The responses across these diverse cultures were largely congruent with Western attitudes, the researchers found. What's more, the highest fat stigma scores were not in the U.S. or the U.K., "but rather Mexico, Paraguay, and -- perhaps most surprisingly -- in American Samoa," the researchers write.

The change in attitudes in American Samoa has happened with remarkable speed, says Dr. Brewis. "When I was doing research in the Samoas in the 1990s, we found people starting to take on thinner body ideals, but they didn't yet have discrediting ideas about large bodies," she said. "But that appears to be changing very quickly."

"People from sites that have adopted fat-negative attitudes more recently seem to be more strident," said cultural anthropologist Amber Wutich, another of the study's authors. "The late adopters were more likely to agree with the most judgmental statements like 'fat people are lazy.'"

The study didn't test what is driving this rapid shift in attitude, but the researchers say that "newer forms of educational media, including global public health campaigns" may be playing a role.

Dr. Brewis said the findings reveal another dimension to the global obesity epidemic.

"There are now more overweight than underweight people around the world," she said. "Our results show that this rapid growth in obesity isn't just a concern because it can undermine health. As more people globally gain weight, we also need to be as concerned about the profound emotional suffering that comes with these types of prejudicial ideas about big bodies taking hold."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Chicago Press Journals. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Alexandra Brewis, Amber Wutich, Ashlan Falletta-Cowden, and Isa Rodriguez-Soto. Body Norms and Fat Stigma in Global Perspective. Current Anthropology, 2011; 52: 2

Cite This Page:

University of Chicago Press Journals. "Negative attitudes toward fat bodies going global, study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110328171226.htm>.
University of Chicago Press Journals. (2011, March 29). Negative attitudes toward fat bodies going global, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110328171226.htm
University of Chicago Press Journals. "Negative attitudes toward fat bodies going global, study finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110328171226.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Microneedle Patch Promises Painless Pricks

Microneedle Patch Promises Painless Pricks

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 18, 2014) Researchers at The National University of Singapore have invented a new microneedle patch that could offer a faster and less painful delivery of drugs such as insulin and painkillers. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Nurse Nina Pham Arrives in Maryland

Raw: Nurse Nina Pham Arrives in Maryland

AP (Oct. 17, 2014) The first nurse to be diagnosed with Ebola at a Dallas hospital walked down the stairs of an executive jet into an ambulance at an airport in Frederick, Maryland, on Thursday. Pham will be treated at the National Institutes of Health. (Oct. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Cruise Ship Returns to US Over Ebola Fears

Raw: Cruise Ship Returns to US Over Ebola Fears

AP (Oct. 17, 2014) A Caribbean cruise ship carrying a Dallas health care worker who is being monitored for signs of the Ebola virus is heading back to Texas, US, after being refused permission to dock in Cozumel, Mexico. (Oct. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spanish Govt: Four Suspected Ebola Cases in Spain Test Negative

Spanish Govt: Four Suspected Ebola Cases in Spain Test Negative

AFP (Oct. 17, 2014) All four suspected Ebola cases admitted to hospitals in Spain on Thursday have tested negative for the deadly virus in a first round of tests, the government said Friday. Duration: 00:55 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins