The Dreaded Weigh-In

By TARA PARKER-POPE | The New York Times

For many people, the worst part of the doctor visit is getting on the scale.

University of Pennsylvania researchers say they believe some women may be avoiding the doctor just to avoid being weighed in front of other people. They surveyed 482 college-age men and women to determine how sensitive they were to the disclosure of personal information, including their weight.

The study, to be published in an upcoming issue of the medical journal Appetite, showed that women experienced high degrees of discomfort at the prospect of being weighed in the presence of others.

The problem is that many busy doctors’ offices put the scale in a well-trafficked hallway or a common room, where the weigh-in can be witnessed by other patients. The survey data suggest that some women may avoid going to the doctor and getting necessary tests like mammograms if their doctor visit includes a step on a public scale.

“Weighing concern may make these women, particularly those who are overweight and already at risk for certain ailments, less likely to visit a doctor,” said lead author Andrew B. Geier, a doctoral candidate in the department of psychology in Penn’s School of Arts and Sciences, in a University news release.

Mr. Geier said the solution for doctors is simple and inexpensive — weigh patients in private.

“The real danger here is the heavier a person is, the more discomfort they feel and thus the more likely they may find reasons to skip appointments,” Mr. Geier said. “These may be the very people that need access to these clinics the most. If a person knows that he or she is going to be provided privacy during the weighing process, that could be a major relief.”

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