Individuals are more likely to attend a weight-loss intervention if GPs use more positive language when discussing obesity, latest research demonstrates.

A new study has found that people are encouraged to lose weight when doctors frame obesity in a good way and as an opportunity to change their lifestyles.

If GPs concentrate on the negative factors of obesity during appointments, patients tend to ignore the advice and are less likely to sign up to a weight-loss programme, the study has reported.

Researchers from the University of Oxford listened to 87 obesity-related patient appointments at 38 GP surgeries in England.

During the study, they examined the language used in the appointment to assess if it impacted whether the patients joined a weight-loss programme.

They ranked the language in three ways: a “good news” approach, a “bad news” approach and a “neutral” news delivery.

GPs in the good news group spoke with optimism and framed weight-loss programmes as a positive opportunity.

In addition, they rarely mentioned body mass index or obesity.

Whereas the doctors in the bad news group focussed mainly on the problems associated with obesity.

Meanwhile, the doctors categorised in the neutral delivery group used neither positive nor negative language.

The results show that the patients in the good news group lost around 4.8kg of weight compared to 2.7kg among those in the bad news group.

In addition, they have revealed that the patients in the neutral news group lost on average 1.2kg in weight, the study has reported.

According to the findings, more than 80% of people in the good news group joined a weight-loss programme, while less than 50% of those in the other groups signed up.

Senior author Dr Charlotte Albury said: “What we found was that when doctors framed the conversation as ‘good news’ – emphasising the benefits and opportunities of weight loss in a positive manner – patients were more likely to enrol in a weight-loss programme, attend more sessions, and, importantly, lose more weight compared to a neutral or negative framing.

“We know words matter, and this research shows they really do – in the short and long-term. Overall, our research shows that subtle changes in communication can significantly influence patient outcomes one year later. The elements that constituted ‘good news’ were subtle but had a clear and positive impact.”

Findings are similar to a study in which the Low Carb Program app was shown to support weight loss and medication reduction in an NHS primary care study. GP apathy was shown to be a driver of engagement with the app.

The study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal.

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