ANTI-FAT attitude classes should be rolled out in schools to stop overweight people being bullied, scientists claim.
Scottish researchers are calling for an “attitude intervention” after new study has shown that depression and low esteem could be linked to the way obese people are treated.
The study, held by the University of Stirling and University of Sheffield, asked 2,300 adults from Scotland and the rest of the UK to answer questions about their attitude towards overweight people and their perceived controllability of obesity.
They found that respondents who reported to have anti-fat prejudices were more likely to mistreat people due to their weight.
And that stigmatising obese people could lead to body image disturbance, elevated depression and lower self esteem.
Young males who frequently exercise were also shown to be more likely to have negative attitudes towards fat people.
Following the findings, Scottish scientists are now asking that pupils across the UK are educated about some of the uncontrollable causes of obesity.
The research, carried out by Dr Stuart Flint and Professor David Lavallee, reported: “This is the first study to demonstrate anti-fat attitudes across different sections of the UK population.
“As such, this study provides the first indication of prevalence of anti-fat attitudes in UK adults.
“Interventions to modify these attitudes could target specific groups of individuals with more negative perceptions.
“Education about the uncontrollable causes of obesity can reduce anti-fat treatment.”
The Scottish Government and health campaigners have backed the findings and also believe that more needs to be done to avoid stereotyping.
Tam Fry, spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, said: “It is truly repugnant that some people feel it necessary to vilify people who seem to them to be obese.
“The researchers are quite correct in calling for education to combat abusers’ ignorance.
“Obesity is frequently beyond control of individuals affected and, even when it isn’t, those suffering from being extremely overweight deserve care more than name-calling.
“It might be impossible to reach everyone currently guilty of this sin but Scottish school curricula should ensure that children never resort to this behaviour.”
Public health minister Maureen Watt said: “We are supportive of any campaign which will prevent people being stigmatised.
“There is a role for everyone in society to avoid stereotypes and consider individuals and their feelings.”
But some critics have questioned whether public funding should be spent on the new scheme.
Eben Wilson, from Taxpayers’ Scotland, said: “Isn’t it strange how eager beaver academics can propose the design of paradise without the slightest regard for the cost of their coercive behaviour modifications?”