Investigating Weight Bias in University students in Saudi Arabia

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Saudi Digital Library
ABSTRACT Background: Obesity is a global phenomenon. Saudi Arabia’s rate of obesity is increasing every year. Weight bias is a widely acknowledged social phenomenon with severe negative implications. Nutrition students who will be professional nutritionists in future will be at the frontier of treating people who are either overweight or living with obesity. If they do not empathise with their clients, they cannot do their job effectively. Objective: This study investigates the extent of weight bias, the associations between gender, body mass index (BMI), and weight bias, and compares the extent to which such biases exist between nutrition and non-nutrition students. Design: This data was achieved by conducting an online survey amongst 73 students (nutrition and non-nutrition) of Hail University. The online survey collected data to determine weight bias among the students using Beliefs about Obese Persons Scale (BAOP) and Attitudes Toward Obese People Scale (ATOP). Results: This study found that clinical nutrition students are biased towards people living with obesity, however, no significant difference was found between the nutrition and non-nutrition students regarding the extent of their weight bias (p=0.533 for BAOP; p=0.321 for ATOP). Moreover, no association was found between weight bias and the gender of the students (p=0.939 for BAOP; p=0.210 for ATOP). No difference were found in terms of weight bias between nutrition and non-nutrition students. Furthermore, BMI was not found to be predicting factor when it came to determining the extent of weight bias (p=0.287 for BAOP; p=0.497 for ATOP). Conclusions: The findings of this study suggest that there is a need to develop interventions within the education system to reduces weight bias stigma and promotes the knowledge, clinical skills, and empathy that is needed towards people with obesity. This will aid to improve both physical health and psychological wellbeing of patients and fellow students.