Obesity is a stigmatized condition, and research has shown that obesity stigma varies based on the perceived cause of obesity. It is important that public health professionals develop policy and campaigns that resonate with specific populations while avoiding an increase in harmful stigma. This study identifies socio-demographic differences in causal attributions of obesity and beliefs about responsibility for obesity. Using data from a survey of 923 people in the United States conducted by ABC New/Time Magazine, attributions of cause and responsibility are analyzed using Ordinary Least Squares regression. Beliefs about cause and responsibility fall on a continuum from primarily individual cause and personal responsibility to primarily societal cause and social responsibility. In general, women and minority racial groups are found to be more likely to identify causes over which individuals have little control and place responsibility on societal factors than men and Whites. People in higher income categories are found to be more likely to identify individual responsibility for obesity. Findings from this study can be used to shape information and public health policy to address obesity in ways that will not exacerbate obesity stigma as well as to create programs that will be customized for specific communities based on their existing beliefs.
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