Nursing students’ attitudes towards obese people, knowledge of obesity risk, and self-disclosure of own health behaviours: An exploratory survey

Type Article

Journal Article


N. Gormley; V. Melby

Year of publication



Nurse Educ Today







BACKGROUND: The rates of people being overweight and obese are recognised as global public health concerns. Negative attitudes towards obese and overweight people are prevalent among health care professionals. Nurses and nursing students have a significant role in health promotion of people who are obese or overweight and can assist people in achieving healthy lifestyles. However, evidence suggests that nurses and nursing students fail to engage in healthy lifestyles themselves and display negative attitudes towards obese and overweight people. Such negative behaviours put nurses and nursing students in a precarious position when advising overweight and obese people to adopt healthy lifestyles. OBJECTIVES: This study aimed to ascertain nursing students' obesity risk knowledge, their attitudes towards obese and overweight people, and their own health promoting lifestyle behaviours. DESIGN: A descriptive correlational study was used. SETTING: One university in the United Kingdom. PARTICIPANTS: A total of 210 nursing students enrolled on a university degree course in Adult or Mental Health Nursing in years 1, 2 and 3. METHODS: Data were collected using three valid and reliable questionnaires: Obesity Risk Knowledge Scale, Attitudes Towards Obese Persons Scale and the Health Promoting Lifestyle Profile. Dependent variables were correlated with independent variables on field of study, year of study, and gender. RESULTS: Results showed that nursing students engage in unhealthy lifestyle behaviours and fail to meet government recommended levels for physical activity. Nursing students had poor knowledge on obesity risk and displayed neutral attitudes towards overweight and obese people. CONCLUSIONS: Educational providers of nursing courses should embrace the need for nursing students to interrogate and enhance their own healthy lifestyle behaviours as an integral component of the pre-registration education course. This may strengthen the credibility and suitability of nursing students as future nurses in health promoting activities of patients who are overweight and obese.