Doctors show more empathy to thin patients

  • It turns out it’s not just some patients’ imaginations running away with them when they feel like their doctor is as compassionate as he or she should be. A small recent study found a statistically significant amount of difference between the way doctors interacted with thin patients as opposed to obese patients.

    The study, published in the medical journal Obesity by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, recorded discussions between 200 patients with high blood pressure and their doctors. When the results were studied, there was no discernible difference in the amount of time doctors spent with patients or the topics discussed, however, they did find that “doctors seemed just a bit nicer to their normal-weight patients, showing more empathy and warmth in their conversations.”

    That’s not to say that the doctors were actually mean or harsh to their overweight patients. However, the study’s lead author, Dr. Kimberly Gudzune, said, “They were just not engaging patients in that rapport-building or making that emotional connection with the patient.” In practice, this means that when conversing with thin patients, doctors would make positive comments such as, “I’m glad you’re feeling better” or “You went through a lot.” They were not found to make the same types of comments to obese patients.

    The bigger problem with this lack of empathy on the doctors’ parts is that when patients don’t feel like their doctors empathize with them, they are less likely to go to the doctor when they feel ill. In the long run, this could mean that more serious ailments aren’t attended to in a timely manner.

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    Source: Overweight Patients Face Bias -