Severe obesity as a barrier to international travel: a qualitative analysis
G. T. Flaherty; R. Geoghegan; I. G. Brown; F. M. Finucane
Year of publication
J Travel Med
BACKGROUND: It is unknown whether obesity is a barrier to international travel. The purpose of this qualitative study was to describe the travel experiences of a cohort of severely obese individuals attending a hospital-based bariatric service, to identify their perceived barriers to travel and to generate recommendations that address the needs of severely obese individuals. METHODS: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with severely obese patients attending a regional, structured, multidisciplinary lifestyle modification programme. Coding and thematic analysis of the transcripts were completed by three independent researchers. A thematic analysis was performed based on examination of the transcribed interviews. Demographic and clinical data such as gender, age and body mass index were also recorded. RESULTS: Twelve patients (six males), with a mean age of 54 ± 5.98 years and a mean body mass index of 46.2 ± 8.2 kg/m2, agreed to semi-structured interviews (14-52-minute duration). The principal themes emerging from the interviews included obese air traveller embarrassment, physical discomfort on commercial flights, perceived weight bias, challenges in accessing hotel rooms, heat intolerance in warm climates, restricted leisure travel activities and medical co-morbidities. Most of the interviewees perceived a health benefit to travel but regarded obesity as a significant barrier to international travel. CONCLUSION: These findings highlight the limitations experienced by obese travellers when engaging in international travel. Our results may inform the pre-travel health advice given to obese travellers. They might also serve to raise awareness among operators within the travel industry of the difficulties travellers with severe obesity face.