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More than Half of Americans Support Weight Loss Surgery

by | 4 minute read

More Americans than ever are dealing with the health consequences of obesity as rates of the disease in the United States and other parts of the world reach an all-time high. But along with the diabetes and heart disease that often accompany obesity, more than one-third are also dealing with the issue of “fat shaming” or weight bias either personally or through someone they know, according to a new national survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago and sponsored by Ethicon.

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that
nearly 40% or 93.3 million U.S. adults have obesity with 7.7% of them
having severe obesity.

The majority of Americans say “fat
shaming”, a term that describes the act of humiliating someone based on
their weight by making mocking or critical comments about their body
size, is a common occurrence.

Key Findings

  • Over
    half (52%) believe people with obesity are “fat shamed” all or most of
    the time and 34% say that they themselves or someone they know have
    experienced it firsthand. Among those with obesity, that number rises to
    43% of respondents.
  • Eighty-five percent of all Americans,
    regardless of their own weight, consider “fat shaming” to be a serious
    issue – 48% of them think it’s extremely serious or very serious.
  • The
    majority of adults (58%) believe that stereotyping or shaming of people
    with obesity occurs in the media and in social situations (37%).
  • Twenty-nine percent say it frequently affects hiring decisions and work promotions (22%).
  • About 1 in 5 say people with obesity are often provided a lower quality care by doctors and other medical professionals (18%).
  • 9
    out of 10 Americans believe people with severe obesity think the best
    way to lose weight is through diet and exercise, either on their own or
    in consultation with a doctor or a personal trainer.
  • More than
    half (55%) support weight-loss surgery, which medical experts consider
    the most effective long-term treatment for severe obesity.
  • The
    public is torn about whether or not obesity is a disease: 53% think it
    is and 46% think it’s a lifestyle choice, despite that in 2013, the
    American Medical Association (A.M.A.), the nation’s largest physician
    group, officially recognized obesity as a disease that requires a range
    of interventions for treatment and prevention.

The age group
with the highest percentage of Weight Loss Surgery Patients (27.3%) is
U.S. adults between the ages of 17 and 24, reports AudienceSCAN. This
age group is notorious for being digitally connected and right fully so.
About 46% of Weight Loss Surgery Patients own Android mobile
smartphones, 38.5% own iPhones, 30.6% use Android tablets while 26.9%
use iPads and 16.5% own smartwatches. Not only do these consumers own a
plethora of mobile devices, they’re 153% more likely than other adults
to find advertising on their mobile apps useful to them and 93% more
likely to find social media advertisements useful. They’re active on
social networks such as Facebook (79.7%), YouTube (67.1%), Instagram
(51.3%) and Twitter (46.5%).

“The way people feel about obesity may affect how they themselves or people they know go about trying to lose weight,” said Dr. Christopher Still, an obesity medicine specialist and director of the Center for Nutrition and Weight Management at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, PA.
“People are often reluctant to seek treatment beyond diet and exercise
out of shame or embarrassment, so more effective treatments are left
unexplored or are viewed more negatively. This is particularly
concerning when it comes to treating severe obesity, where diet and
exercise alone have been proven to be largely ineffective over time.”

While
the vast majority of Americans (79%) consider weight-loss surgery to be
medically appropriate for severe obesity, 19% still think it’s a
cosmetic procedure and 24% say they would actually oppose a family
member’s or close friend’s decision to have it, while 57% would be proud
of their decision and 10% say they would be disappointed or ashamed.

Obesity
medications are even less popular with the American public. Less than
half support the use of prescription obesity medications and only a
quarter support a friend or family member taking over-the-counter diet
pills. In fact, the use of over-the-counter diet pills is opposed by
more people (54%) than any other weight loss method.

“People’s perceptions of obesity and weight-loss surgery may be one reason that less than 1% of the eligible patient population have life-enhancing weight-loss surgery each year and why obesity continues to be the major public health threat that it is,” said Elliott Fegelman, MD, Therapeutic Area Lead for Metabolics, Ethicon, Inc. “Prevention is important, but access and an openness to effective treatments beyond diet and exercise are critical for those with the disease.”

Weight Loss Surgery Patients can be encouraged to take steps to overcome their condition through positive advertisements. Last year, according to AudienceSCAN, 65.7% of this consumer group took action after seeing an advertisement on their mobile smartphone apps or after receiving a text ad and 60.1% clicked on text link ads on websites. They’re also 31% more likely than other adults to take action after receiving email ads. TV is where 35.5% of this group gets most of their local news and, last year, 72.7% took action after seeing a TV commercial.

AudienceSCAN data is available for your applications and dashboards
through the SalesFuel API. Media companies and agencies can access
AudienceSCAN data through the AudienceSCAN Reports in AdMall.

Rachel Cagle

Rachel Cagle

Rachel is a Research Analyst, specializing in audience intelligence, at SalesFuel. She also helps to maintain the major accounts and co-op intelligence databases. As the holder of a Bachelors degree in English from The Ohio State University, Rachel helps the rest of the SalesFuel team with their writing needs.

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