Tampa, Fla. – The U.S. has been battling weight bias for years, and new research shows that it is also a significant problem in Europe. Ted Kyle, RPh, MBA, OAC National Board member, provided 2017 European Congress on Obesity (ECO2017) attendees with new insights into European views of obesity and those affected by it. From a sample of 34,320 adults in Sweden, UK, Germany, and Italy, a fascinating picture emerges. Belief that obesity results from addiction to junk food stand out in all four countries – but it’s strongest in Italy.

“Fully 70 percent of adults in Italy agree that obesity results because ‘people get hooked on addictive junk food and sugary drinks.’ Half of them say they strongly believe it. In Sweden, 72 percent agree with that idea, but significantly fewer people believe it strongly,” said Ted Kyle, RPh, MBA.

While there was a strong correlation between the public belief of the presence of obesity and food addiction, scientific consensus did not fully line up with this belief. “Many factors contribute to obesity. People may have symptoms linked to food addiction without actually having obesity, and people who have obesity may have no symptoms linked to food addiction,” said Kyle.

The research also demonstrated that weight bias seems to be prevalent throughout Europe. There was a strong belief in Italy that “people with obesity are lazier than most people.” Furthering this global pattern of bias, people in the UK believe more strongly that people with obesity are at fault for their condition. In both Sweden and UK, beliefs that obesity results from “disgusting” irresponsibility was more common.

“The point of measuring these beliefs is to look for ways to reduce the impact of weight bias. We are grateful for that ongoing support. Both the Obesity Action Coalition and Novo Nordisk are making it possible to track these views throughout time,” said Kyle.

“The OAC finds tremendous value in studying weight bias with our global partners. This research not only demonstrates that bias is a worldwide issue, but it also tells us that there are similar patterns in the bias itself. These findings will help us address weight bias and help those affected by obesity,” said Joe Nadglowski, OAC President and CEO.

To view the research poster presented at ECO2017 on this topic, please click here.

The Obesity Action Coalition (OAC), a more than 56,000 member-strong National nonprofit organization, is dedicated to improving the lives of individuals affected by the disease of obesity through education, advocacy and support.