Exploring the association between body weight, stigma of obesity, and health care avoidance

J Am Acad Nurse Pract. 2002 Dec;14(12):554-61. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-7599.2002.tb00089.x.


Purpose: To explore the stigma of obesity and its effect on health care utilization, associations between self-esteem, attribution for weight, body mass index (BMI), satisfaction with medical care and the behavior of delaying/avoiding health care were examined.

Data sources: A convenience sample of 216 women recruited from church sites in Las Vegas completed self-administered questionnaires.

Conclusions: The findings show an increase in BMI is associated with an increase in the delay/avoidance of health care. Weight-related reasons for delaying/avoiding health care included having "gained weight since last health care visit," not wanting to "get weighted on the provider's scale," and knowing they would be told to "lose weight."

Implications for practice: The obese are a stigmatized and vulnerable population. Nurse practitioners are challenged to be aware of attitudes towards obesity and to identify ways to promote continuity of care and regular health maintenance. The goals of Healthy People 2010 to reduce obesity-related morbidity cannot be met if health care is delayed/avoided.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight*
  • Female
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Nevada
  • Nurse Practitioners / psychology
  • Obesity / classification
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Self Concept*
  • Stereotyping*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Women / psychology*