Background

As more females than males attend weight loss programmes and seek medical treatment for obesity, we hypothesised that there are differences in approaches to health care in females and males with obesity. Thus, we investigated the gender differences in attitudes towards the management of obesity using data from the ACTION-IO study (NCT03584191).

Methods

An online survey was completed by adults with obesity in 11 countries: Australia, Chile, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, UAE and UK. We compared attitudes towards prescription anti-obesity medications and bariatric surgery between males and females.

Results

A total of 14,502 people with obesity completed the survey; 7,050 (49%) were female and 7,438 (51%) were male. Both females and males, respectively, would prefer to lose weight themselves rather than utilise medication (69% and 75%) or surgery (77% and 82%), although the attitude was stronger for males. More females (48%) than males (39%) said they would like their healthcare professional to offer a weight loss medication, but more females (71%) were concerned about the side effects of medications than males (65%). Cost was also a barrier to more females than males for both medications (54% vs 40%) and surgery (59% vs 44%). A minority of females and males agreed that there were good options for weight loss medications (41% and 37%) and surgery (44% and 37%) available today. Lastly, 43% of both females and males perceived surgery as the easy way out.

Conclusions

Both genders prefer to lose weight without the use of medications or surgery. Females are slightly more open to the use of anti-obesity medications and surgery than males but have greater concerns about the possible side effects and cost. Many females and males do not think there are good options for anti-obesity medications and surgery available today, highlighting the unmet medical need. Education on the evidence-based efficacy and safety of therapies is required.