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Society and Workplace Diversity Research Group

Social stigma - Personality attribution

Obesity

Obesity is a highly prevalent condition with significant health implications. The World Health Organization has characterized the increasing prevalence of obesity as an epidemic.

Has the epidemic yet reached Norway?

A recent review of prevalence studies from Norway (2000-2003) suggests it has. The prevalence of obesity in the adult population (BMI =30 kg/m2) was for males 11- 29 % (median 19,5 %) and for women 9 - 38 % (median 20 %) (Ulset, Undheim & Malterud, 2007).

Obesity is a chronic disorder that has negative consequences for the individual and represents a serious public health problem. There are well-documented links between obesity and increased mortality and morbidity due to among other conditions, hypertension, diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, sleep apnoea, certain types of cancer and impaired fertility. The adverse effects of obesity are, however, not only medical. In Norway, as in many Western countries, negative attitudes towards obesity are widespread. These attitudes translate into disadvantages in many areas such as renting a residence, getting married and difficulties in the job seeking process.

Our studies have demonstrated that we tend to ascribe personality characteristics to people simply based on information about their weight and physical appearance. In series of experimental studies, the research group will continue to investigate the barriers that overweighed - as well as seriously underweighted individuals may face in recruitment situation or in job promotions.