Reducing Obesity Stigma via a Brief Documentary Film: A Randomized Trial

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Abstract

The stigma of obesity impacts individuals across numerous life domains, and people with obesity are offered little legal protection against discrimination based on their body type. While a number of experiments have shown that stigmatizing attitudes toward obesity are somewhat malleable, fewer studies have tested the impact of interventions deployable outside of the lab. Fewer still have measured the impact on individuals’ support for equal rights for people with obesity. This randomized trial examined the effects of viewing the weight stigma portion of HBO’s The Weight of the Nation documentary on viewers’ attitudes about obesity across several important domains, including support for equal rights for those with obesity relative to control participants. Participants were 109 young adults who watched a portion of HBO’s The Weight of the Nation documentary or a control video. Following completion of the video, participants were asked to volunteer for a second unrelated study on prejudice in an adjacent computer lab. It was under the guise of this “unrelated study” that weight bias was assessed. Participants’ negative judgments of people with obesity, desire for social distance, and support for equal rights for people with obesity improved after watching the video. Their perceived attractiveness of people with obesity did not change relative to the control condition. This study finds support for the use of a brief documentary film as a means to reduce stigma against persons with obesity.

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