My choice of words: words and context matter

Cindy Gray, Kate Hunt, Karen Lorimer, Annie Anderson, Michaela Benzeval, Sally Wyke

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Words are powerful, and so is the context in which they are delivered. When selecting words to use to describe a patient’s weight status, it is important to take this into account. If the objective is to encourage a patient to take action to address his/her obesity, then using words that the patient would find most acceptable in a non-clinical situation may be least effective. Using qualitative interviews with people who were obese or approaching obesity and had been given feedback about their objectively-measured weight, we found that most considered “overweight” to be an acceptable description of their weight status, but few felt it would motivate them to lose weight (1). In contrast, terms that were viewed as less acceptable, including “obese”, were often considered to be more likely to make them want do something about their weight.
Original languageEnglish
Issue numbere1370
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012


  • patient care
  • obesity
  • public health


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