Perception of overweight and obesity from different angles: A qualitative study

Claudia Sikorski, Christiane Riedel, Melanie Luppa, Beate Schulze, Steffi Riedel Heller, Perla Werner, Hans Helmut König

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims: Up to this date, the obesity pandemic has yet to be confined, with prevalence rates still rising in most countries. Aside from numerous negative consequences such as comorbid diseases and a reduction in life expectancy due to excessive bodyweight and the economic impact of obesity on healthcare systems, negative outcomes in overweight and obese individuals are also affected by perceived stigmatisation and discrimination. Knowledge of common views and perception overweight and obesity in the general public as well as in specific populations (e.g. healthcare professionals) is crucial in order to develop stigma-reduction interventions. The specific aim of the current study was to develop an appropriate questionnaire to be used in the survey to follow and further to enhance existing instruments. Methods: This qualitative study reports results from focus groups with normal-weight and overweight individuals as well as healthcare professionals. Results: Contents of the discussion of overweight and obesity did not differ substantially between the three groups. Results show that the definition of obesity in our focus groups is a subjective construct influenced mainly by aesthetics, sympathy, and activity. Within the groups, obesity was mainly seen as a controllable condition; however, external, such as societal, factors were named as well. In line with this and as expected from theoretical background, obese individuals are ascribed mainly negative attributions. Conclusions: With these results, this study enlightens lived realities of different groups of people. The results can be applied to improve existing instruments for the measurement of attitudes towards obesity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-277
Number of pages7
JournalScandinavian Journal of Public Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Germany grant number (FKZ): 01EO1001.


  • Focus groups
  • healthcare professionals
  • illness and disease
  • instrument development
  • obesity/overweight
  • public health campaigns
  • stigma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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