„Nobody likes me!“

Obese people have trouble finding a partner. Marriages are less frequent.

Foto: iStockphoto
Photo: iStockphoto

The beauty ideal in this country postulates that only slim and sporty people are attractive. Overweight or even obesity are deemed to be unattractive in our cultural environment – interestingly this is independent of the fact that ever more people are affected by overweight.  Scientific studies of the IFB AdiposityDiseases have found out that heavily overweight people encounter a lot of prejudices. The majority thinks they are lazy, weak-wiiled and less intelligent (1). So not only the outward appearance, but also the personality gets a negative assessment. This seems to be reflected also in a survey by the online dating agency Elite-Partner. It showed that 68 percent of the men and 65 percent of the woman asked would not fall in love with an overweight partner. According to a survey of the polling institute TNS EMNID 49 percent of the Germans would like to change something in the appearance of their partners. Most often a potbelly is being complained about.

If one thinks of friends, colleagues, or of public life it becomes clear: Overweight people have indeed less often a partner. Also in science it has been researched if obese woman or men have less often a partner or get married. In 1993 an American study of the Harvard School of Public Health found out that the probability of marriage for obese men is about 11 percent and for obese woman 20 percent decreased. Interestingly, other physical afflictions like asthma or orthopedic diseases had no influence on the probability of marriage. Furthermore, the obese study participants underperformed in the long term when it comes to education and income. A Swedish study (3) showed that men, who were obese at age 18, were married only half as often as normal weight fellow males, when reviewed 22 years later. For women scientific studies have shown similar results.

Many discussion boards on the internet are full of the obese people’s problems finding or keeping a partner. Often, a partner who has gained a lot in weight becomes a problem in a relationship. How to tell ones partner that he or she should lose weight? How to handle the loss of attractiveness? Psychologists advise to address the topic in any case, but with a great sensitivity. Allegations or threats to end the relationship are mostly counterproductive. Couples should co-operate in improving their nutrition and exercising habits. Thus, partners show solidarity and together the motivation becomes bigger.

Doris Gabel

Scientific sources:

(1)  Sikorski C, Luppa M, Brähler E, König H-H, Riedel-Heller SG. Obese Children, Adults and Senior Citizens in the Eyes of the General Public: Results of a Representative Study on Stigma and Causation of Obesity. PLoS ONE 7(10) 2012: e46924. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0046924. (Zu diesem Thema gibt es auch eine Pressemitteilung.)

(2)  Gortmaker SL, Must A, Perrin JM, Sobol AM, Dietz WH. (Department of Health and Social Behavior, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA) Social and economic consequences of overweight in adolescence and young adulthood. N Engl J Med. 1993 Sep 30;329(14):1008-12.

(3)  Kark M, Karnehed N. Weight status at age 18 influences marriage prospects. A population-based study of Swedish men, BMC Public Health. 2012; 12: 833

Keywords: society & social life, stigmatization