Words matter: a qualitative investigation of which weight status terms are acceptable and motivate weight loss when used by health professionals

Gray, C.M., Hunt, K., Lorimer, K., Anderson, A.S., Benzeval, M. and Wyke, S. (2011) Words matter: a qualitative investigation of which weight status terms are acceptable and motivate weight loss when used by health professionals. BMC Public Health, 11(513), pp. 1-9. (doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-513)

[img]
Preview
Text
56264.pdf

280kB

Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-11-513

Abstract

Background: Obesity prevalence is increasing, which is a major public health concern due to increased risks of associated morbidity. Accompanying the rising prevalence is the normalization of overweight resulting in people being unaware that the terms ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’ apply to them, and with it the health risks. Despite the importance of individuals being aware of their weight status and personal risk of ill-health, the response to weight status terminology is poorly understood. Our aim is to investigate people’s response to weight status terminology in relation to motivation to lose weight.

Methods: Forty-eight in-depth interviews with men and women (aged 35 and 55 years) recruited from the longitudinal West of Scotland Twenty-07 Study, from which they had recently learned their body mass index (BMI) and body fat composition via a feedback letter.

Results: Although the term ‘overweight’ was acceptable to most respondents, few BMI-overweight respondents had found it motivational to lose weight. Whilst the term ‘obese’ was considered derogatory and upsetting, and most respondents would not like the word to be used towards them, it was recognized by some that the negative nature of the term could be motivational to people’s weight loss. Ultimately, however, many respondents favoured weight terms which conveyed the unhealthy nature of being overweight (such as unhealthily high body weight).

Conclusions: Health professionals should be aware of the potentially derogatory perceptions of the term obese and exercise sensitivity in their use of weight status terminology to ensure that people are fully aware of their weight status and personal risk of ill-health, and are motivated to change their eating and exercise behaviours accordingly.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Wyke, Professor Sally and Gray, Dr Lucinda and Hunt, Professor Kathryn and Benzeval, Dr Michaela
Authors: Gray, C.M., Hunt, K., Lorimer, K., Anderson, A.S., Benzeval, M., and Wyke, S.
Subjects:R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > Social Scientists working in Health and Wellbeing
College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > MRC/CSO Unit
College of Social Sciences
Journal Name:BMC Public Health
Publisher:BioMed Central Ltd.
ISSN:1471-2458
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2011 Gray et al.
First Published:First published in BMC Public Health 11(513):1-9
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher
Related URLs:

University Staff: Request a correction | Enlighten Editors: Update this record