40 percent of med students biased against obese
When personal bias creeps into health services, the doctor-patient relationship - built largely on trust – can begin to deteriorate. New research from the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center suggests that obese people may have a particularly hard time gaining respect from their physicians. The study found that 40 percent of medical students appeared to be unconsciously biased against obese people, assuming that they were less likely to follow treatment plans.
The research evaluated 300 third-year med school students from 14 countries, including the United States. The medical students' preference for "fat" or "thin" patients was measured by the Weight Implicit Association Test, and the participants also completed surveys which assessed weight-related preferences. The research indicated that 39 percent of students had an unconscious anti-fat bias, compared to only 17 percent who had an anti-thin bias.
Of those 40 percent who viewed obese patients differently, only one in four were aware of their biases.
Patient bias can result in poor medical judgment. A previous University of Washington research, for instance, found that pediatricians who show an unconscious preference for white patients tend to prescribe better pain management treatment for them than they do for African-Americans.