Weight loss and gender: an examination of physician attitudes

Obes Res. 2001 Apr;9(4):257-63. doi: 10.1038/oby.2001.30.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate physician attitudes toward the treatment of overweight and obese individuals and to evaluate potential gender differences in treatment recommendations.

Research methods and procedures: A survey describing several hypothetical patients was sent to 700 randomly selected physicians; 209 (29.9%) returned the survey. Two versions of the questionnaire (one for men and one for women) described three hypothetical patients at three levels of body mass index (BMI) (32, 28, and 25 kg/m(2)). One-half of the physicians received a version of the questionnaire describing the patients as women, and one-half received a version describing the patients as men. Respondents answered questions about attitudes toward treatment and specific interventions and referrals they would view as appropriate.

Results: Physicians were more likely to encourage women with a BMI of 25 kg/m(2) to lose weight than men with the same BMI, and indicated that they would suggest more treatment referrals for women than men. Men with a BMI of 32 kg/m(2) were more likely to be encouraged to lose weight than women with the identical BMI. Physicians were more likely to encourage weight loss and see treatment referrals as appropriate for patients with higher BMIS:

Discussion: This study indicates that physicians treat male and female patients differently, with physicians more likely to encourage weight loss and provide referrals for women with a BMI of 25 kg/m(2) than for men with an identical BMI and less likely to encourage weight loss for women than men with a BMI of 32 kg/m(2).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Obesity / therapy*
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Prejudice*
  • Weight Loss*