DOI: 10.1111/obr.13606 ISSN: 1467-7881

Weight stigma experienced by patients with obesity in healthcare settings: A qualitative evidence synthesis

Leona Ryan, Rory Coyne, Caroline Heary, Susie Birney, Michael Crotty, Rosie Dunne, Owen Conlan, Jane C. Walsh
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


Weight stigma research is largely focused on quantifiable outcomes with inadequate representation of the perspectives of those that are affected by it. This study offers a comprehensive systematic review and synthesis of weight stigma experienced in healthcare settings, from the perspective of patients living with obesity. A total of 1340 studies was screened, of which 32 were included in the final synthesis. Thematic synthesis generated three overarching analytical themes: (1) verbal and non‐verbal communication of stigma, (2) weight stigma impacts the provision of care, and (3) weight stigma and systemic barriers to healthcare. The first theme relates to the communication of weight stigma perceived by patients within patient–provider interactions. The second theme describes the patients' perceptions of how weight stigma impacts upon care provision. The third theme highlighted the perceived systemic barriers faced by patients when negotiating the healthcare system. Patient suggestions to reduce weight stigma in healthcare settings are also presented. Weight stigma experienced within interpersonal interactions migrates to the provision of care, mediates gaining equitable access to services, and perpetuates a poor systemic infrastructure to support the needs of patients with obesity. A non‐collaborative approach to practice and treatment renders patients feeling they have no control over their own healthcare requirements.

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