One in three people admit they would hire a job hopeful with a healthy weight over an overweight candidate.
This while nine in 10 adults believe people with obesity are viewed negatively because of their weight.
These are some of the findings released by the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA to coincide with World Obesity Day.
This year’s theme is “It’s Time to End Weight Stigma” and the foundation said new research showed that 89% of adults believe people with obesity are viewed negatively because of their weight, and 84% believe people are likely to discriminate against someone who is overweight.
This is higher than other forms of discrimination, including sexual orientation (78%), ethnic background (75%) or gender (55%).
“The findings show that people with obesity experience stigma and discrimination across all aspects of their lives.
“Three in five South African adults living with obesity have felt judged because of their weight in clothes shops or in social situations and, worryingly, about half have felt judged in health-care settings (52%) and gyms (44%),” the foundation said.
According to the World Health Organisation, childhood obesity is one of the most serious global public health challenges of the 21st century.
They said in 40 years the number of school-age children and adolescents with obesity has risen to 124 million in 2016.
International obesity expert Professor Carel le Roux said World Obesity Day was an opportunity for South Africa to be the moral compass of the world.
“The impact of weight stigma and discrimination is far-reaching. It can damage career prospects, with nearly one in three South Africans (30%) admitting that out of two equally qualified candidates they would appoint the one with a healthy weight over an overweight candidate.
“Stigma also has physical and mental health consequences: it’s been found to deter people from seeking medical care and can lead to social isolation,” Le Roux said.
Dr Bianca van der Westhuizen, nutrition science manager at the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA said discrimination toward obese persons posed numerous consequences for their psychological and physical health.
More information to help combat weight stigma can be found on www.worldobesity.org