Thin patients are treated more warmly by doctors than obese ones, study shows

A new study by Johns Hopkins researchers found that doctors showed more care and warmth with patients who were normal weight rather than overweight.
Liu Jin

In yet another reason to lose weight, a new study has shown that your doctor will care about you more.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins found, in what may prove to be a controversial study, that doctors showed more more warmth and empathy towards thinner patients than obese ones.

“If you aren’t establishing a rapport with your patients, they may be less likely to adhere to your recommendations to change their lifestyles and lose weight,” said study author Kimberly A. Gudzune, an assistant professor of general internal medicine at Johns Hopkins.

“Some studies have linked those bonding behaviors with patient satisfaction and adherence, while other studies have found that patients were more likely to change their dietary habits, increase exercise and attempt to lose weight when their physicians expressed more empathy."

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Researchers listened to recordings of visits by more than 200 patients of varying girth with high blood pressure to 39 different doctors.

They found that although weight made no difference in how long the doctor spent with the patient, it did make a difference in how much care they showed.

Doctors used more phrases that showed validation, warmth and concern with those who were thinner than with the heavier patients.

The study author said she hopes this reminds doctors to show more concern and care for all patients.

"Patients want information and treatment, but they also need the emotional support and attention that can help them through the challenges that accompany weight loss and the establishment of a healthy lifestyle," said Gudzune.

The study was published in the journal Obesity.