237828 Headless, hungry, and unhealthy: A video content analysis of obese persons portrayed in online news media

Tuesday, November 1, 2011: 11:15 AM

Rebecca Puhl, PhD , Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, Yale University, New Haven, CT
Jamie Lee Peterson, MA , Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, Yale University, New Haven, CT
Jenny DePierre, BA , Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, Yale University, New Haven, CT
Joerg Luedicke, MS , Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, Yale University, New Haven
The news media has substantial power to shape public perceptions of social and health issues. Obesity has become a frequent topic of discussion in the media, but portrayals of obese persons are frequently stigmatizing. This study conducted a comprehensive video content analysis to examine portrayals of obese persons in online news reports. News videos about obesity (N = 371) were downloaded from five popular news websites, and visual portrayals of obese and non-obese adults and youth in these videos were systematically coded. Sixty-five percent of overweight/obese adults and 77% of overweight/obese youth were portrayed in a negative, stigmatizing manner across multiple obesity-related topics covered in online news videos. Specifically, overweight/obese individuals were significantly more likely than non-overweight individuals to be portrayed as headless, with an unflattering emphasis on isolated body parts, from an unflattering rear view of their excess weight, eating unhealthy foods, engaging in sedentary behavior, and dressed in inappropriately fitting clothing. Non-overweight individuals were significantly more likely to be portrayed in a flattering and positive manner. These findings have important implications for public perceptions of obesity and obese persons, and may reinforce negative societal weight bias. The presenter will discuss implications of these findings for public perceptions of obese individuals, and explain how stigmatizing visual content in obesity news can adversely influence public health policy and community efforts to address obesity. Finally, this presentation will identify ways in which changes in news media portrayals of obese individuals can play an important role in reducing weight-based stigmatization and inequalities.

Learning Areas:
Communication and informatics
Other professions or practice related to public health
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe the nature and impact of obesity stigma in the news media 2. Explain how overweight and obese youth and adults are stigmatized in news reports about obesity 3. Discuss potential remedies to improve media portrayals of overweight and obese individuals

Keywords: Media, Obesity

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a Research Associate studying weight bias and stigmatization, I have conducted several studies on this topic, and significantly contributed to the study being presented.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.