Background

Considering the implications that the stigma of obesity imposes over the patients, we aim to assess the stigmatization of the obese relative to various discriminated groups of people, objective of this study, in order to have this question made clear and widely discussed by different social groups. We also expect that this study may contribute to new approaches to monitoring and treatment of obese patients, identifying effective interventions to improve attitudes.

Methods

Descriptive study, transversal type. The participants were three hundred and four children of both sexes, students of public schools of a council localized in the northeast region of the state of São Paulo, Brazil. After examining seven caricature drawings of young men with different physical appearance (normal, obese, anorexic, disabled sitting on a wheelchair, disabled holding crutches, disabled with a missing arm and one with a facial disfigurement and scars in his right arm as a result of burn), they were administered a questionnaire previously elaborated. Answers were given in percentiles and the mean rank order of preferences was correlated to the stigmatization degree of each group.

Results

This study showed that, among participants, obesity was highly stigmatized, but not more than the burned, the group more stigmatized under all aspects. Considering the questions with a positive connotation, such as “which boy would you like to be?”, the anorexic was the second more stigmatized, followed by the obese; the one with normal appearance was the least stigmatized, as expected.

Conclusions

The obese were highly stigmatized by the public school students surveyed. The figures of the children burned and with excessive thinness were stigmatized, but in a smaller proportion compared to the figures of obese children.