Doctors less empathetic for obese patients

JOHNS HOPKINS (US) — Physicians build much less of an emotional rapport with overweight and obese patients than with patients of normal weight, a study suggests.


The study was small—involving 39 primary care doctors and 208 patients—but has potentially significant implications, because bonding with doctors is important for good health outcomes. Earlier studies showed that patients of more empathetic physicians are more likely to adhere to recommendations and respond to behavior-change counseling.


“If you aren’t establishing a rapport with your patients, they may be less likely to adhere to your recommendations to change their lifestyles and lose weight,” says Kimberly A. Gudzune, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Without that rapport, you could be cheating the patients who need that engagement the most.”