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«The Stigmatisation of Obesity by University Students Who Will be the Future Counsellors, Educators, and Psychologists* Sultan Okumuşoğlu Europian ...»

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Psychology Research, September 2016, Vol. 6, No. 9, 509-515

doi:10.17265/2159-5542/2016.09.003

DAVID PUBLISHING

The Stigmatisation of Obesity by University Students Who Will

be the Future Counsellors, Educators, and Psychologists*

Sultan Okumuşoğlu

Europian University of Lefke, Lefke, Türkiye

To investigate the attitudes of prospective councellors, psychologists, and educators, Obesity Prejudice Scale was used. Participants are ninety university students, thirty from each mentioned department. Founded mean score 82,422 (SD = 1,091) is very close to 85 which indicates prejudical attitudes. Even for the group of participants who informed they have no prejudical bias toward people with obesity, total mean scores was not below 68 which means unstigmatising attitudes. Participants who attribute personal responsibility for obesity condition are more biased toward people with obesity than participants who does not. Mean scores above three (on five point likert) at item level accepted as indicators of the participants’ biased attitudes. According to mentioned findings, people with obesity conceptualised as “unhealthy” people, who “doesn’t like to move”, “has restricted ability to move”, “moves slowly”, “quickly get tired”, “vulnerable to ilnesses”, “smelling sweat”, “unattractive”, “unhappy”, “unesthetic”, “lazy people”, who doesn’t have “self confidence” or “will power”, “unfavoruable for sentimental relationships”, “seem older than they really are”. Stigmatising attitudes towards people with obesity held by authority figures at school settings dangerously depletes the potential for early detection and prevention for obesity and eating disorders. Therefore findings implies a need to plan educational intervention programs for prospective counsellors, educators and psychologists to shape more positive, more indiscriminative attitudes.

Keywords: obesity stigma, attitudes, stereotypes, people with obesity, stigmatisation Introduction The word “Stigma” is such a concept which can be explained with “negative labeling”, “stereotyping” and many other concepts which implies negativity. It is a study area which has became topic of interest for many researchers (Jorm, Christensen, & Griffiths, 2005; Link & Phelan, 2001; Corrigan, 2005). The word “Stigma” accomodates ignorance, prejudice, negative attitudes and discrimination too (Thornicroft, Rose, Kassam, & Sartorius, 2007). Stigma includes stereotypes which relates the target person with a set of negative characteristics and these stereotypes are resistant to change (Jacoby, Snape, & Baker, 2005). People can be stigmatised because of many different reasons and one of these reasons is obesity. People who has Body Mass Index greater than 30 (BMI ≥ 30) are accepted as having obesity (Ogden, 2007; WHO, 2013). Obesity is accepted as a global epidemic; a pandemic (Ogden, 2014; WHO, 1997). Therefore, there are lots of studies * This study have been presented at International “7th World Conference on Psychology, Counseling and Guidance (WCPCG-2016)”, April, 28-30, 2016, Kuşadası, İzmir, Türkiye.

Sultan Okumuşoğlu, Ph.D. (Clinical Psychologist), Department of Psychology, Europian University of Lefke. 

  THE STIGMATISATION OF OBESITY BY UNIVERSITY STUDENTS510

about stigmatisation of individuals with obesity which reflects existence of weight bias (Harriger, Calogero, Witherington, & Smith, 2010; Link, Yang, Phelan, & Collins, 2004; O’Brien et al., 2008; Sayce, 1998).

According to Carr and Friedman (2005), the discrimination that people with obesity encounter is one of the worst a person can encounter in social context.

Stigmatisation hosts many disadvantages for people with obesity and leads to negative consequences in multiple areas of lives of people with obesity including health (Major & O’Brien, 2005). Stigmatisation and related negative consequences may arise in many different settings and in many different forms. Sikorski et al. (2013), emphasized the negative attitudes of health workers toward people with obesity and they explained how harmfull this could be through preventing help seeking behavior. Even perceived discrimination effects people’s lives and treatment results (Sikorski et al., 2011). Stigmatising attitudes, intolerant and negative attitudes toward people who are fighting with obesity have a link with low self-esteem (Puhl & Brownell, 2006), social isolation, depression and future eating disorders (Tang-Peronard & Heitmann,

2008) for stigmatised one. Thereby stigmatisation deteriorates physical and psychological well being of the targeted person.

When students with obesity or overweight encounter with negative, stigmatising attitudes, their psychological well being and participation to school activities being affected unfavourable (Bauer, Yang, & Austin, 2004). When the target of the negative attitudes and discrimination is young students, it is obvious that all mentioned negative effects of stigmatisation will be maximized.

The potential of school setting for early detection and prevention efforts for obesity or eating disorders is huge. School setting also has potential for prevention of development of negative attitudes toward the “other” including weight based discrimination. Under the light of related literature, it is obvious that negative attitudes held by authority figures who work with students at school settings has crucial importance. Thereby the aim of this study was investigation of stigmatised attitudes toward people with obesity at a group of prospective councellors, psychologists, and educators. Therefore, in this study weight based prejudical attitudes of a group of future councellors, psychologists, and educators have been investigated.





Method Participants Participants are ninety university students from fourth grades of various departments of various universities. Fourth grades have choosen since they are close to perform their job. The students are from Psychology Departments, Psychological Counselling and Guidance Departments and from other departments of Education Faculties which raise teachers for intermediate level schools. Thirty university students from each of the mentioned departments were reached according to convenience principle till equal groups are handled.

There is 39 women and 51 men. The percentages of women and men in groups are approximately matched (see Table 1). Age range is between 18 to 27 (M = 20.366, SD = 1.725). Participants’ Body Mass Index (BMI) which was calculated through division of weight by the square of height is between 15.62 kg/m² to 32.49 kg/m² (M = 22.435, SD = 2.954). 75.55% of the participants’ BMI is in “normal” range (18 ≥ normal BMI ≤ 24.9). In terms of BMI there is no statistically meaningfull difference among groups. Participants are from various parts of Turkey (13 from Marmara Region, 18 from Aegian Region, 27 from Mediterranean Region and 32 from Eastern Anatolia region).

–  –  –

Tools The Obesity Prejudice Scale and Demographic Information Form were performed.

Obesity Prejudice Scale For assesment of discriminative, prejudical attitudes of participants, the Obesity Prejudice Scale which was developed by Ercan, Akçil Ok, Kızıltan, and Altun (2015) was used. It is a 27 item, 5 point likert type scale.

Possible scores which participants can get from this scale are between 27 to 135. Higher scores mean higher prejudice. According to Ercan et al. (2015) Obesity Prejudice Scale scores which are ≤ 68.00 indicate unpredjudiced attitudes. Scores between 68.01-84.99 reveal inclination to prejudical attitudes and scores ≥ 85 means having prejudical attitudes.

Demographic Information Form By this form which was prepared by investigator participants’ demographics like sex, age, department, and home city were recorded. Participants’ attributions about personal responsibility of individuals with obesity and participants self perceptions about their own weight were also asked. Also participants self informed weight and height were handled and BMI was calculated through this data.

Procedure Ethical rules followed, each participant was volunteer. After informed consent and anonimity guaranty were provided by the investigator, scales were administered to the participants who volunteered to enrol.

Statistical Analysis Data analysis was performed by Statistical Package for Social sciences (SPSS-16). Statistical signifance level was choosen as 0.05.

Since the main aim of this study is handling data about prejudice level of prospective professionals who will work at school settings, descriptive statistics of total Obesity Prejudice Scale scores were performed to handle total stigmatisation level of participants and to get item level biased conceptualisations of participants.

Also descriptive statistics carried out to see sample demographics.

Also, in order to investigate attitude differences among groups, one way variance analysis (ANOVA) were performed. Participants’ total Obesity Prejudice Scale scores were used as dependent variables and groups as independent variables. Groups were formed according to departments of participants. Beside this, groups were formed through personal responsibility attribution for obesity condition, self reported prejudical attitudes, sex, self perception about their own weight, and home city.

–  –  –

between 58 to 122 (M = 82.422, SD = 1.091). Mean score 82,422 reveal inclination to prejudical attitudes.

According to Ercan et al. (2015), Obesity Prejudice Scale scores which are ≤ 68.00 points out unpredjudiced attitudes. Scores between 68.01-84.99 reveal inclination to prejudical attitudes and scores ≥ 85 means prejudical attitudes.

According to means for each item which are above three on the five point likert scale at least most of the participants attitudes for certain items are biased like this: Participants generally have a tendency to think that people with obesity “don’t like to move” and “have restricted ability to move”. They think people with obesity are “unhealthy” people, who “move slowly”, “quickly get tired”, “vulnerable to ilnesses”, “smell sweat”, “unattractive”, “unhappy”, “unesthetic”, “lazy” people. They think people with obesity “don’t have self confidence” or “will power”, “unfavourable for sentimental relationships” and “seem older than they really are” (see Table 2).

–  –  –

Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) (1) One way ANOVA between groups based on personal responsibility attribution to people with obesity for their condition and total Obesity Prejudice Scale scores

–  –  –

Participants grouped according to informed attributions about personal responsibility of individuals with obesity for their condition. The number of participants who informed that they believe people with obesity are responsible for their condition is 57 and 33 participants informed they do not think people with obesity have personal responsibility for their condition. Variance analysis between these two groups revealed a statistically significant difference (F(1, 88) = 94.553, p 0.05, µ² = 0.518). According to this result, participants who attribute personal responsibility (M = 88.368, SD = 8.557) are more biased toward people with obesity than participants who does not (M = 72.151, SD = 5.629).

(2) One way ANOVA between groups based on participants’ departments and total Obesity Prejudice Scale scores Analysis revealed no statistically significant differences among departments in terms of total Obesity Prejudice Scale scores (F(2, 87) = 0.266, p 0.05).

(3) One way ANOVA between groups based on self reported prejudical attitudes and total Obesity Prejudice Scale scores Participants were asked to inform either they have prejudical attitudes towards people with obesity or not.

The percentage of participants informed they have no prejudical attitude toward people with obesity is 88.88% (M = 81.687, SD = 10.253) and 11.11% informed they have prejudical attitude (M = 88.300, SD = 14.598).

Depending on existence and non-existence of self reported prejudical attitudes two groups were formed. One Way ANOVA between these two groups and total Obesity Prejudice Scale scores revealed no statistically significant differences among mentioned groups (F(1, 88) = 3.346, p 0.05).

(4) One way ANOVA between total Obesity Prejudice Scale scores and Sex Analysis which performed to see differences among males and females in terms of Obesity Prejudice Scale scores depending on sex showed no statistically significant differences (F(1, 88) = 2.44, p 0.05).

(5) One way ANOVA between groups based on self perception about own weight and total Obesity Prejudice Scale scores Participants were asked to inform how they percept their own weight by choosing from given words as “thin”, “medium/normal” and “overweight”. Variance analysis among these groups which determined according to self percepted weight revealed no statistically significant differences among groups in terms of total Obesity Prejudice Scale scores (F(2, 87) = 2.014, p 0.05). Since informed weight is “medium/normal” for 71 of the participants over 90, group sizes are uneven.

(6) One way ANOVA between participants departments and BMI scores Participants weight and height were asked and Body Mass Index (BMI) was calculated through this data.

Analysis revealed no statistically meaninfull differrences among department groups in terms of BMI (F(1, 87) = 0.53, p 0.05) which indicates groups are matching in terms of BMI.

Discussion and Conclusion

The main aim of this study was investigation of stigmatising attitudes toward obesity among prospective professionals who will work at school settings. Founded general mean score 82,422 reveal a tendency to prejudical attitudes. This score is close but higher than the mean (M = 76.394) which was founded by Ercan et al. (2015). When it is thought that having scores which are equal to or greater than 85 indicates prejudical attitudes, it became obvious that this founded “moderate” tendency to prejudical attitudes is very strong.

  THE STIGMATISATION OF OBESITY BY UNIVERSITY STUDENTS514



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