Several professional societies endorse the use of person-first language (PFL) in communication involving people with diabetes or obesity. The purpose of this analysis was to determine the extent to which scholarly articles focusing on diabetes or obesity use PFL.

We reviewed existing guidelines and constructed separate lists of PFL and condition-first language (CFL) terms for diabetes and obesity (e.g., diabetic, obese) . Exact phrase searches were conducted using PubMed from 2011-2020 and resultant articles were categorized as PFL, CFL, or both. Journal-specific factors (e.g., scope, PFL policy) were extracted from a manual review of author guidelines.

The searches yielded 56048 scholarly articles for diabetes and 45584 for obesity. Among diabetes articles, 42.8% used PFL, 40.1% used CFL, and 17.2% contained both (p<0.0PFL vs. CFL) . Among obesity articles, 0.5% used PFL, 99.3% used CFL, and 0.2% used both (p<0.0PFL vs. CFL) . Use of PFL increased by 3.1% per year for diabetes articles, compared to 117.0% for obesity articles (p=0.002) . The rate of adoption of PFL in diabetes articles was unchanged in 2018-2020 compared to years prior (p=0.970) . PFL was more likely to be used in diabetes articles published in a diabetes-focused journal (OR 1.66; p<0.001) and in journals with a PFL policy (OR 2.97; p<0.001) . Obesity articles were more likely to use PFL if published in a US journal (OR 2.34; p=0.002) and in journals after implementation of a PFL policy (OR 32.11; p<0.001) . Obesity-focused journals were not more likely to use PFL than non-specialized journals (p=0.12) .

Although the use of person-first language in diabetes articles has increased over the past years, progress has slowed despite the recent publication of PFL guidelines. Fewer than 1% of obesity articles used person-first language, suggesting a widespread lack of recognition of the importance of PFL in obesity. The strongest predictor of the use of person-first language was if the article was published in a journal with a PFL policy.


D.Bialonczyk: Employee; Gelesis. K.L.Close: Other Relationship; Abbott, ADOCIA, Amarin Corporation, American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, American Diabetes Association, American Medical Association, Ascensia Diabetes Care, Astellas Pharma Inc., AstraZeneca. J.Dickinson: Consultant; DiaNavi, Vivify. J.D.Reece: None. T.K.Kyle: Advisory Panel; Nutrisystem, Inc., Consultant; Gelesis, Johnson & Johnson. J.F.Nadglowski: Employee; Obesity Action Coalition. K.Johnson: None. M.Garza: None. E.Pash: Employee; Gelesis. E.Chiquette: Employee; Gelesis.

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