Survey Reveals The ‘Globalization of Stigma’ Towards Fatness

The predominantly Western value of stigmatizing ‘obesity’ or people who are fat is not necessarily a paradigm shared by people everywhere else in the world, but there are indications that this aversion towards obesity is steadily crossing physical boundaries, and changing people’s attitudes around the world.

In a study conducted by researchers from the Arizona State University, which will be published in the April issue of Current Anthropology, 680 people living in urban locations in 10 countries and territories around the world were surveyed to check their attitude towards obesity.

Some of these countries are the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Iceland, Argentina, Mexico, and Paraguay apart from surveying respondents from cultures that actually value fatness such as Tanzania, Puerto Rico, and American Samoa.

These surveys were mostly conducted through personal interviews while additional questions were sent to respondents via the Internet. Most of these questions were directed to find out how people view fatness and whether or not excess weight was stigmatized in other parts of the world.

Almost all responses from these 10 locations indicated that there was a strong negative attitude towards fat people as they thought that obesity was either due to laziness or lack of self-control.

Surprisingly, the highest rates of stigma towards fatness was not from the United States or the United Kingdom but from countries such as Paraguay, Mexico, and American Samoa – of which the latter has made a strong shift towards idealizing bodies that were slim as opposed to traditional practices.