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Online News Coverage May Create Obesity Stigma

Yale University researchers opine that online news coverage of obesity may end up stigmatizing overweight and obese people. Online news stories about obesity feature unflattering photographs of fat people. Often, overweight people are shown as slobs munching junk food and wearing loose clothes.

The researchers analyzed obesity coverage on five major online websites. 72% of the news stories portrayed obese people negatively. Most of the news photographs emphasized the bloated abdomen and lower body of obese people, while cutting out their faces.

Such negative news coverage may harm obese people by creating a social stigma. This could lead to low self-confidence and depression. In turn, these negative emotions can trigger weight gain by compelling obese people to overeat comfort food.

Online news is important in the US, where a majority depend on the Internet for news. The authors of the study criticize the fact that news photographs omit obese people’s faces. They say this portrays fat people as symbols of the obesity epidemic. The authors have created a database of positive photographs of obese individuals, which they say can be used by online news websites.

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