ASMBS/NORC Obesity Poll: How Do Americans Really Perceive Obesity?

Dec 22, 2016

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ASMBS/NORC Obesity Poll: How Do Americans Really Perceive Obesity?

The New York Times recently featured a major story on obesity with the headline, “Americans Blame Obesity on Willpower, Despite Evidence It’s Genetic.” The story was based on a national consumer survey conducted by the ASMBS & University of Chicago on perceptions Americans have about obesity and its treatment. Major national news outlets including People Magazine, CNBC, and Cosmo covered the ASMBS/NORC Obesity Poll.

They wanted to use the survey as an educational and public awareness platform to inspire a national dialogue on the diagnosis and treatment of obesity and generate national media coverage on the issues that interfere with the treatment of the disease. That, by the way, includes your own doctors who don’t believe in metabolic surgery and still advise you to diet and exercise your way out of being morbidly obese.

“The barriers to treatment go beyond insurance,” said Raul J. Rosenthal, my mentor and past president of ASMBS. He added that the survey aimed to uncover other barriers including fear and denial about the disease and misperceptions about the safety and effectiveness of weight-loss surgery.

The New York Times also featured reactions to the survey from several non-surgeon obesity experts throughout the country. Their comments, as you see, reflect what most morbidly obese patients already know and go through every day:

 “It’s frustrating to see doctors and the general public stigmatize patients with obesity and blame these patients, ascribing attributes of laziness or lack of willpower. We would never treat patients with alcoholism or any chronic disease this way. It’s so revealing of a real lack of education and knowledge.”

“Trying 20 times and not succeeding — is that lack of willpower, or a problem that can’t be treated with willpower?”

“One problem, though, is that medical professionals can be as misinformed as the public. We are talking about people who are 100, 200 pounds overweight…”

“The failure by doctors to mention the only effective course of treatment (bariatric surgery). If that was the case for cardiovascular disease and bypass surgery, you would say doctors are negligent?”

Major findings from the ASMBS/NORC Obesity Poll include:

  • 81% of Americans consider obesity to be the most serious health problem facing the nation, tying cancer and ahead of diabetes (72%) and heart disease (72%)
  • 94% think obesity itself increases the risk for an early death, even when no other health problems are present
  • Most Americans think diet and exercise on one’s own is the most effective for long-term weight loss (78%), saying it’s even more effective than weight-loss surgery (60%) and prescription obesity drugs (25%)
  • 1 in 3 of those struggling with obesity, report that they have never spoken with a doctor or health professional about their weight
  • Only 12% of those with severe obesity, for whom weight-loss surgery may be an option, say a doctor has ever suggested they consider surgery
  • Only 22% of Americans with obesity rate their health positively, and half report being diagnosed with two or more chronic conditions
  • 88% say losing weight through diet and exercise, especially with the help of a doctor, is the safest way to do it, while prescription medications (15%) and dietary supplements (16%) are perceived to be the least safe
  • About one-third believe weight-loss surgery to be either safe (31 %), unsafe (37%), or neither safe nor unsafe (31%), though 68 % think that living with obesity is still riskier than having weight-loss surgery
  • 62% consider obesity simply a risk factor for other diseases and not a disease itself
  • 48% believe obesity is caused primarily by a person’s lifestyle choices and that the biggest barrier to weight loss is a lack of willpower (75%)

The misperceptions about the fundamental causes of morbid obesity and how to best treat it exist amongst both the patients and their doctors.

Don’t be one of the above statistics.

If you are suffering from obesity and tired of yo-yo dieting and drugs and fads, it’s of the utmost importance that you seek the most effective and progressive treatment options available to you.

At University Bariatrics we consider all the options during your consultation, and help create a customized weight loss plan to help you along your journey to a healthier life. Call us today attend a free bariatric surgery seminar and set up your personal private consultation.

University Bariatrics