Personality type could shape attitudes toward body weight of others, researchers say

January 15, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Studies show there is a major link between personality traits and personal body image, but the relationship between personality and attitudes toward others' bodies has gone largely unexplored.

Now, Florida State University researchers suggest that the specific alchemy of an individual's personality -- their distinct blend of conscientiousness, agreeableness, openness, neuroticism and extraversion -- is directly related to their beliefs about others' bodies and the ways those beliefs are expressed in social interactions.

In a study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, researchers found that the relative prominence of these five personality traits, which together constitute the Five Factor model of personality, has a significant bearing on a person's attitudes toward obesity, their implicit theories of weight and their willingness to engage in derisive fat talk or weight discrimination.

"Individuals who are higher in neuroticism hold more negative attitudes about obesity, they show more phobia toward weight, they talk more negatively about their body to their friends and around their children, and they are more likely to perceive weight discrimination," said study co-author Angelina Sutin, associate professor in FSU's College of Medicine.

The scientific literature has long suggested a strong connection between personality and body weight. People who score high in conscientiousness, for example, tend to weigh less and have lower long-term risk of obesity, whereas people higher in neuroticism tend to harbor negative emotions about their bodies.

While these connections present a compelling case for the power of personality in predicting a person's body weight or coloring a person's body image, Sutin and her team were interested in broadening this line of inquiry beyond the individual. They wanted to learn more about how personality may be modulating body weight experiences in the social realm.

"There is a social dimension to body weight," Sutin said. "People have attitudes about body weight and what contributes to obesity. People also often vocalize their fears about how they look and what they need to do to lose weight. We wanted to know whether personality contributes to this social experience."

Sutin and her team interviewed 3,099 women with children using a series of carefully crafted surveys that allowed researchers to map respondents' attitudes and behaviors onto their individual Five Factor personality profiles. Their results were largely in line with expectation: higher neuroticism foretold more negative attitudes, and higher conscientiousness generally aligned with more positive attitudes and behaviors.

One finding, though, surprised Sutin and her team. Their surveys pointed to a significant association between conscientiousness and greater fat phobia.

"One aspect of conscientiousness is following the norms of society," Sutin said. "Even though two-thirds of the U.S. population is overweight or obese, there are strong social ideals for health and fitness -- even if, on average, we do not meet these ideals."

People high in conscientiousness -- already preconditioned to follow rules and hold to prevailing social beliefs -- may internalize these ideals, Sutin said. Eventually, that may result in expressions of phobia toward obesity.

"Their endorsement of obesity stereotypes may be consistent with their need to fit with beliefs held by society more broadly," Sutin and her co-author, FSU College of Medicine Associate Professor Antonio Terracciano, wrote in their study.

While these results need to be replicated to confirm their validity beyond this specific cohort of mothers, Sutin said both individuals and society would benefit from renewed scrutiny on attitudes toward others' bodies.

"Attitudes have broad-reaching consequences -- for how the individual feels and responds to their body, for shaping children's attitudes toward their own bodies and the bodies of those around them, and for policy," she said. "If people hold negative attitudes toward obesity, that could shape the way that policies are made and implemented and perpetuate stigma toward obesity rather than constructive ways to address it."
-end-
This research was supported by the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health.

Florida State University

Related Obesity Articles from Brightsurf:

11 years of data add to the evidence for using testosterone therapy to treat obesity, including as an alternative to obesity surgery
New research covering 11 years of data presented at this year's European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) show that, in obese men suffering from hypogonadism (low testosterone), treatment with testosterone injections lowers their weight and improves a wide range of other metabolic parameters.

Overlap between immunology of COVID-19 and obesity could explain the increased risk of death in people living with obesity, and also older patients
Data presented in a special COVID-19 session at the European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) suggests that there are overlaps between the immunological disturbances found in both COVID-19 disease and patients with obesity, which could explain the increased disease severity and mortality risk faced by obese patients, and also elderly patients, who are infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 disease.

New obesity guideline: Address root causes as foundation of obesity management
besity management should focus on outcomes that patients consider to be important, not weight loss alone, and include a holistic approach that addresses the root causes of obesity, according to a new clinical practice guideline published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) http://www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.191707.

Changing the debate around obesity
The UK's National Health Service (NHS) needs to do more to address the ingrained stigma and discrimination faced by people with obesity, says a leading health psychologist.

Study links longer exposure to obesity and earlier development of obesity to increased risk of type 2 diabetes
Cumulative exposure to obesity could be at least as important as actually being obese in terms of risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D), concludes new research published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes [EASD]).

How much do obesity and addictions overlap?
A large analysis of personality studies has found that people with obesity behave somewhat like people with addictions to alcohol or drugs.

Should obesity be recognized as a disease?
With obesity now affecting almost a third (29%) of the population in England, and expected to rise to 35% by 2030, should we now recognize it as a disease?

Is obesity associated with risk of pediatric MS?
A single-center study of 453 children in Germany with multiple sclerosis (MS) investigated the association of obesity with pediatric MS risk and with the response of first-line therapy in children with MS.

Women with obesity prior to conception are more likely to have children with obesity
A systematic review and meta-analysis identified significantly increased odds of child obesity when mothers have obesity before conception, according to a study published June 11, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS Medicine by Nicola Heslehurst of Newcastle University in the UK, and colleagues.

Obesity medicine association announces major updates to its adult obesity algorithm
The Obesity Medicine Association (OMA) announced the immediate availability of the 2019 OMA Adult Obesity Algorithm, with new information for clinicians including the relationship between Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes Mellitus, Dyslipidemia, and Cancer; information on investigational Anti-Obesity Pharmacotherapy; treatments for Lipodystrophy; and Pharmacokinetics and Obesity.

Read More: Obesity News and Obesity Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.