Americans seem to understand the personal health risks of obesity, but widespread confusion persists about the causes and treatments of the disease, says a new survey from the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) and the independent research organization NORC at the University of Chicago.
The poll indicates that Americans take obesity as seriously as cancer, and say it’s an even bigger health threat than heart disease, the nation’s leading killer, yet most do not go beyond traditional diets or involve doctors in their largely unsuccessful personal struggles against it.
The ASMBS/NORC Obesity Poll finds that 81% of Americans consider obesity the most serious health problem facing the nation, tying cancer as the top issue, ahead of diabetes (72%); heart disease (72%); mental illness (65%); and HIV/AIDS (46%).
Nearly all respondents (94%) agree that obesity itself increases the risk for an early death, even if no other health problems are present, according to the survey. Yet, despite the seriousness with which they take the threat, the vast majority of Americans incorrectly perceive diet and exercise alone to be the most effective long-term weight loss method, and 1 in 3 of those struggling with obesity report that they have never spoken with a doctor or health professional about their weight. Only 12% of those with severe obesity, for whom weight loss surgery could be an option, say a doctor has ever suggested they consider surgery.