Is Obesity Stigmatizing? Body Weight, Perceived Discrimination, and Psychological Well-Being in the United States

Department of Sociology, Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research, Rutgers University, 30 College Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, USA.
Journal of Health and Social Behavior (Impact Factor: 2.72). 10/2005; 46(3):244-59. DOI: 10.1177/002214650504600303
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT We investigate the frequency and psychological correlates of institutional and interpersonal discrimination reported by underweight, normal weight, overweight, obese I, and obese II/III Americans. Analyses use data from the Midlife Development in the United States study, a national survey of more than 3,000 adults ages 25 to 74 in 1995. Compared to normal weight persons, obese II/III persons (body mass index of 35 or higher) are more likely to report institutional and day-to-day interpersonal discrimination. Among obese II/III persons, professional workers are more likely than nonprofessionals to report employment discrimination and interpersonal mistreatment. Obese II/III persons report lower levels of self-acceptance than normal weight persons, yet this relationship is fully mediated by the perception that one has been discriminated against due to body weight or physical appearance. Our findings offer further support for the pervasive stigma of obesity and the negative implications of stigmatized identities for life chances.

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Available from: Michael Friedman, Aug 22, 2015
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    • "Although precise mechanisms are not clear [17], common underlying genetic factors [18] and biophysiological mechanisms [19] are implicated behind the relationship of obesity with poor mental health. Stigma and discrimination associated with being obese and overweight can lead to mental health consequences [20] [21]. Body image, which is Psychiatry Journal the psychological experience of the appearance and function of one's own body and an aspect of the person's mental representation of himself/herself [22], partially explains the relationship between obesity and mental distress [23]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background. There is conflicting evidence regarding the association of body mass index (BMI) with mental distress. Studies have focused on different dimensions of mental health and used different definitions and many of them have not controlled for confounding factors. The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between frequent mental distress (FMD) and BMI among adults in the United States, with special emphasis on gender differences. Methods. Data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) for the year 2011 were used in logistic regression models to predict FMD, defined as having 14 or more days of poor mental health in the previous month. Sociodemographic factors, tobacco and alcohol use, diet and physical activity, and number of chronic diseases were controlled for. Results. 11.95% (n = 53,715) of the participants with valid responses (n = 496,702) had FMD. The adjusted ORs of having FMD among underweight, overweight, and obese females were 1.13 (95% CI: 1.10, 1.60), 1.10 (95% CI: 1.03, 1.19), and 1.21 (95% CI: 1.13, 1.31), respectively, but they were not statistically significant for males. Conclusions. These findings suggest a relationship between BMI and FMD, independent of other variables. It may be useful to explore longitudinal trend in this association.
    11/2013; 2013:230928. DOI:10.1155/2013/230928
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    • "Moreover, obesity may have social effects deriving from its stigmatisation and from discrimination in a variety of contexts, such as health care, employment, wages, educational setting, friendships, and so on (e.g. Carr and Friedman, 2005; Schafer and Ferraro, 2011). All these factors can not only negatively impact individual's quality of life, but they also impose an economic burden on society through direct costs (e.g. "
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    ABSTRACT: The aim of this paper is to estimate the effect of obesity on the employment probability for Italian men and women accounting for both observed and unobserved confounding. We use microdata collected by the Italian National Statistical Office for the year 2009 during a multi-scope survey of Italian households. The employment-obesity relationship is estimated after controlling for observed confounding by using regression modelling and a propensity score weighting approach. To control for both observed and unobserved confounding (endogeneity) a semiparametric recursive bivariate probit approach is employed instead. Our findings suggest that obesity has a significant negative effect on the employment probability and that endogeneity might not be an important issue here.
    Statistica Neerlandica 11/2013; 67(4):436-455. DOI:10.1111/stan.12016 · 0.48 Impact Factor
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    • "That is, these studies assess the extent of self-reported or actual observed discrimination toward overweight individuals. Other studies capture the perspective of the stigmatized individual (target of discrimination; e.g., Carr and Friedman, 2005). Puhl and Brownell (2006), for example, asked members of a weight loss support group organization to report the frequency of discrimination. "
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    ABSTRACT: The present study examined the correspondence between perceived and actual social discrimination of overweight people. In total, 77 first-year students provided self-ratings about their height, weight, and perceived social inclusion. To capture actual social inclusion, each participant nominated those fellow students (a) she/he likes and dislikes and (b) about whom she/he is likely to hear social news. Students with lower Body Mass Index (BMI) felt socially included, irrespective of their actual social inclusion. In contrast, students with higher BMI felt socially included depending on the degree of their actual social inclusion. Specifically, their felt social inclusion accurately reflected whether they were actually liked/disliked, but only when they were part of social news. When not part of social news, they also showed insensitivity to their actual social inclusion status. Thus, students with a lower BMI tended to be insensitive, while students with a higher BMI showed a differential sensitivity to actual social discrimination.
    Frontiers in Psychology 04/2013; 4:147. DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00147 · 2.80 Impact Factor
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