Updated 12 October 2018

SA publications among the worst for negative portrayals of people with obesity

SA publications are among the most stigmatising in the world in terms of how they portray obesity, according to a recent study.

A study published on Thursday found that South African media is the among most stigmatising in the world in terms of how it portrays obesity.

The country’s online publications scored the highest for the negative portrayals of people with obesity together with Italy, Hong Kong and Morocco. 

Research has found that stigmatising individuals for obesity only makes the situation worse - a 2014 study published in the Obesity journal found that obese people who were fat shamed gained up to 2kg than those who were not stigmatised for their weight. 

Researchers from the international non-profit World Obesity Federation analysed close to 200 images used in articles about obesity from online publications in 15 countries across the globe. 

More than half (63%) of images used showed overweight or obese people, while 42% showed isolated body parts which researchers consider to be negative imagery.

“The use of these images can reinforce stereotypes about personal responsibility and blame. The images also tended to present people with obesity as miserable, distressed or sad,” the 2018 World Obesity Federation annual report says. 

Researchers recommend media organisations choose images that portray people with obesity in a more respectful manner — for instance, using a photo of a big person exercising or images that don’t isolate certain parts of their bodies — will health reduce weight stigma.

“Weight stigma in the media reinforces dislike and disrespect for people living with obesity and emphasises ‘personal responsibility’ for the disease,” the study states.

“[This] may not only absolve governments and commercial actors of responsibility for their role in creating obesogenic environments but may also lead individuals living with obesity to blame themselves and internalise the stigma about their condition.”

– Heath-e News 


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