Obesity and Patient Activation: Confidence, Communication, and Information Seeking Behavior

Ji Eun Chang, Zoe Lindenfeld, Virginia W. Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction/Objectives: Patient activation describes the knowledge, skills, and confidence that allow patients to actively engage in managing their health. Prior studies have found a strong relationship between patient activation and clinical outcomes, costs of care, and patient experience. Patients who are obese or overweight may be less engaged than normal weight patients due to lower confidence or stigma associated with their weight. The objective of this study is to examine whether weight status is associated with patient activation and its sub-domains (confidence, communication, information-seeking behavior). Methods: This repeated cross-sectional study of the 2011 to 2013 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS) included a nationally representative sample of 13,721 Medicare beneficiaries. Weight categories (normal, overweight, obese) were based on body mass index. Patient activation (high, medium, low) was based on responses to the MCBS Patient Activation Supplement. Results: We found no differences in overall patient activation by weight categories. However, compared to those with normal weight, people with obesity had a higher relative risk (RRR 1.24; CI 1.09-1.42) of “low” rather than “high” confidence. Respondents with obesity had a lower relative risk (RRR 0.82; CI 0.73-0.92) of “low” rather than “high” ratings of communication with their doctor. Discussion and Conclusions: Though patients with obesity may be less confident in their ability to manage their health, they are more likely to view their communication with physicians as conducive to self-care management. Given the high receptivity among patients with obesity toward physician communication, physicians may be uniquely situated to guide and support patients in gaining the confidence they need to reach weight loss goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Primary Care and Community Health
StatePublished - 2022


  • communication
  • obesity
  • patient engagement
  • weight management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Community and Home Care
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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