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J Health Commun. 2011 Oct;16(9):976-87. doi: 10.1080/10810730.2011.561915. Epub 2011 Jun 1.

Obesity stigma in online news: a visual content analysis.

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Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06511, USA.


This study conducted a content analysis to examine the types of images that accompany online news stories about obesity and to determine how obese people are portrayed in news photographs. Images were selected from news articles about obesity obtained from 5 major news Web sites, during a 2-week period in September of 2009. Images accompanying news stories about obesity (N = 549) were systematically coded. Of 441 individuals identified in news photographs, 65% were overweight/obese and 27% were nonoverweight. Overall, 72% of images that depicted an overweight or obese person were portrayed in a negative, stigmatizing manner. Overweight/obese individuals were significantly more likely to have their heads cut out of the photos, to be portrayed showing only their abdomens or lower bodies, and to be shown eating or drinking than were nonoverweight individuals. Overweight/obese individuals were significantly less likely to be shown fully clothed, wearing professional clothing, or exercising than were nonoverweight individuals. Obese individuals are frequently stigmatized in online news photographs; this phenomenon has important implications for public perceptions of obese persons and may reinforce pervasive prejudice and discrimination.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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