Fat Phobia of University Students: Attitudes toward Obesity

By Hayran, Osman; Akan, Hülya et al. | Journal of Allied Health, Fall 2013 | Go to article overview

Fat Phobia of University Students: Attitudes toward Obesity


Hayran, Osman, Akan, Hülya, Özkan, Azru Durukan, Kocaoglu, Bike, Journal of Allied Health


This study examined attitudes about obesity among a sample of university students from the departments of Health Sciences and Fine Arts. METHODS: This cross-sectional study was carried out among first- and second-year students of Health Sciences and Fine Arts Yeditepe between April and May 2011. The questionnaire surveyed sociodemographic characteristics, height, weight, and a short form of the "Fat Phobia" scale. A pilot study revealed that the test-retest reliability was r=0.71 and internal consistency (Cronbach alpha) was 0.8783. The mean and SD were computed for descriptive purposes, and a t-test was used for hypothesis testing; significance was considered for p<0.05. RESULTS: A total of 305 students (86 men, 219 women) were included in the study. The mean score on the fat phobia scale was 3.57±0.69 among the whole group. Fat phobia of women was higher than of men (p<0.001). Although the mean score of fat phobia was higher in underweight students than in obese students, there was no statistically significant differences according to body structure (p>0.05). The adjectives about which the whole group was phobic were "likes food" (4.50), "overeats" (4.20), "slow" (3.90), "inactive" (3.82), "no will power" (3.71), and "shapeless" (3.66). Female students were more phobic than men in adjectives "overeats," "no will power," "shapeless." CONCLUSIONS: Fat phobia is common among university students, and women are more fat phobic than men. Fat phobia and attitudes toward obesity should be examined and followed, and methods and messages directed to change negative attitudes should be included during training. J Allied Health 2013; 42(3):147-150.

OBESITY is a rapidly increasing public health problem in Turkey as well as worldwide. The main rationale for considering obesity, which is characterized by increased adipose tissue, as a health problem is supported by evidence from several studies showing a close relationship between obesity and multiple chronic illnesses.1,2 Cardiovascular diseases, type II diabetes, and hypertension are more likely to develop in obese persons,3 a few studies indicate that obesity underlies several infections,4 and there are also some studies that show a close association between certain types of cancers and obesity.5

However, another factor that makes obesity a health issue at least as significant as its medical consequences is the increased negative attitudes, prejudice, and discrimination toward obese people. Studies show that negative attitudes, prejudice, and discrimination against obese people have become increasingly more common among both the general population6-8 and healthcare workers.9-11 Studies with both pediatric and adult patients indicate that the stigma associated with obesity is an important risk factor for psychological distress and poor mental health, leading to problems such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and poor body image.12,13 Moreover, there are studies that demonstrate biochemical and physiological conditions underlying the close link between the stigma associated with obesity and type II diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases.14-16 Viewing obesity only as an individual failure rather than considering its environmental and social aspects, and stereotyping obese people as lazy, lacking in will power, and noncomplaint with treatment,17,18 can result in damage to these patients' psychological well-being as well as negatively affect the delivery of health care services to these patients.

The present study was designed to evaluate the attitudes of university students attending the faculties of Health Sciences and Fine Arts at Yeditepe University toward obesity, which is an increasing and already important public health problem in Turkey.

Methods

This cross-sectional study was carried out with freshmen and sophomores from several departments at the Faculty of Health Sciences and the Faculty of Fine Arts, Yeditepe University, between April and May 2011. …

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