Why don’t doctors tell more patients they are obese?

Well, duh, the answer is because the patients already know.

Ok, seriously, Time Magazine has an interesting article on the results of a study through the Mayo Clinic. It is a very interesting study that is designed to see why more doctors don’t label their patients as obese.

The study’s objective:

To evaluate whether primary care physicians document obesity as a diagnosis and formulate a management plan.


They did this by looking through a year of charts from general practitioners looking to see if patients were clinically obese, and whether the doctor noted it in the diagnosis or not.


The study found that out of a total of 9827 patients, 2543 were clinically obese or 26%. This is the first statistic that is interesting as it is less than the normal rate quoted in the media. Yes, I understand that obese people are loathe to go to the doctor, but still.

Out of those 2543 patients who were obese, only  20% were actually diagnosed as being obese. The study goes on to detail that those who were diagnosed as obese had active plans in the works to combat it.

The really interesting thing about the study is that RESIDENTS were more likely than STAFF PHYSICIANS to diagnose obesity. I think this reflects the fact that newer, younger doctors are more aware of the risks. Residents also don’t have the bloom knocked off their idealistic ways.

I think the reason more established doctors don’t say anything is that it’s like talking to a wall. If someone knows they are obese you can talk to them about losing weight, but until they make the decision to do it nothing will happen. We need to remember that doctors are not gods. They are people like you and I, so they will react and feel about things pretty much the same way we do. I mean how many times can you tell someone to change their ways before you give up?