Faculty Proceedings, Presentations, Speeches and Lectures


Exploring Attitudes Towards Bariatric Surgery Patients and Policies in Canada

Event Location / Date(s)

Prague, Czech Republic

Document Type


Presentation Date


Conference Name / Publication Title

International Conference on Eating Disorders (ICED) 2017


Explicit and implicit stigma toward individuals with obesity are widespread. A burgeoning new literature also indicates that “residual” weight stigma exists for individuals who had previously been, but are no longer, obese. These negative attitudes are affected by weight loss method, such that stigma is strongest for people who lose weight through bariatric surgery as compared with diet and exercise. Stigma associated with obesity has been found to be a key contributing factor to poor quality of life, and thus it is important to develop a better understanding of the factors contributing to the development and maintenance of negative attitudes towards bariatric surgery and their malleability. The purpose of the current study was to examine the impact of visual portrayals of obesity on support for Canadian policies that facilitate patient access to bariatric surgery and on attitudes towards individuals who undergo the procedure. A total of 275 Canadian participants (N = 175 for the original study, and N = 100 for a replication) were recruited using Crowdflower, a crowd-sourcing platform for online recruitment and data collection. Participants read a news story about a policy to facilitate obese individuals’ access to bariatric surgery and were randomly assigned to view the article accompanied by a nonstigmatizing image, stigmatizing image, or no image of an obese individual. Contrary to our hypotheses, the groups generally did not differ in their support of the policies depicted in the article. In the original study, the no image condition reported the least stigmatizing attitudes towards patients (p < 0.18); however, this finding was not replicated in the subsequent study. Although the results suggest that visual portrayals do not significantly influence attitudes towards bariatric surgery, it was found that more favourable views towards the procedure were significantly associated with participant Body Mass Index (r = .31, p < .001), knowing someone who is considering or has had bariatric surgery (t = 3.61, p < .001), and greater perception of knowledge about the procedure (r = .24, p = .001). This line of research continues to be imperative in order to inform strategies for reducing stigma, thereby improving access to bariatric care for those who can benefit from it and quality of life for those who have had the procedure.