New research reveals strategies to address weight bias & stigma in qualitative interviews | World Obesity Federation

New research reveals strategies to address weight bias & stigma in qualitative interviews

NewsNew research reveals strategies to address weight bias & stigma in qualitative interviews

A recent study, published in our journal ‘Obesity Reviews’, has unveiled a series of actionable strategies aimed at reducing weight bias in qualitative research interviews, offering a comprehensive guide for researchers to ensure respectful and inclusive study environments.

Weight bias, the negative ideologies associated with obesity, has pervasive effects in various sectors, including healthcare, employment, and notably in the field of research. Qualitative interviews, in particular, present unique challenges as they often delve into personal and potentially sensitive topics. The study emphasises the significant impact weight stigma can have on the quality of data gathered, potentially skewing results and harming participants.

The study, conducted by a team of researchers with extensive experience in health outcomes and patient care, outlines six key strategies to mitigate weight bias during qualitative research interviews:


Researchers are encouraged to introspect on how personal biases and weight-related experiences might influence the study dynamics. Tools such as the Implicit Association Test are recommended for identifying subconscious biases.

Considerate questioning

Before delving into weight-related topics, researchers should obtain consent from participants, ensuring that discussions around weight are relevant and sensitively handled.

Building rapport

Establishing a non-judgmental and empathetic environment is crucial for facilitating open and honest dialogue. The study suggests beginning interviews with non-weight related topics to build trust.

Inclusive language

Engaging with participants to understand their preferred terminology regarding weight can help in crafting questions that are respectful and inclusive.

Debriefing and support

Offering participants opportunities to debrief after discussing sensitive topics and providing access to additional support resources is essential for ethical research practices.

Adaptable interview settings

Researchers are advised to consider audio-only interviews or ensure that the physical settings of interviews accommodate participants comfortably, regardless of body size.

These strategies are informed by a comprehensive review of existing literature and firsthand experiences from the research team, ensuring that the recommendations are both empirically supported and practically applicable.

The study also advocates for the inclusion of individuals with lived experiences in the research process. Engaging participants in study design and question development can help ensure that the research approaches do not perpetuate stigma or bias.

This research is a call to action for the academic community to recognise and address weight bias more proactively, ensuring that qualitative research is a tool for empowerment rather than discrimination. The study’s authors believe that these strategies will not only improve the accuracy and integrity of research findings but also enhance the overall experience of participants, fostering a more inclusive and respectful research environment.

Learn more on weight stigma

Weight stigma and bias form one of our core policy priorities. Learn more on our dedicated page.

Weight stigma