Pain and Cost of Weight Bias Chronicled in New Studies
Widespread prejudice directed at obese children and adults is the theme of a special supplement to the November issue of Obesity. The supplement, devoted exclusively to bias and prejudice toward obese persons, and the emergence of new science on this significant social problem, was funded by Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity.
“Vast numbers of children and adults are vulnerable to weight bias, and the consequences of stigma and discrimination on public health could be considerable,” said Rebecca Puhl, editor of the special issue. Puhl is the Rudd Center’s director of research and anti-stigma initiatives.
The supplement contains 14 articles by prominent scientists in North America and Europe, from a range of disciplines including psychology, public policy and law. Their research highlights the need for greater awareness of weight bias and its negative impact on health and society.
Some of the major findings from the studies are:
- Increasing rates of obesity have not led to greater acceptance of obese individuals, and even children who are at greater risk for obesity show body size stigmatization as early as preschool.
- Weight-related teasing is prevalent throughout adolescence, and is a problem for overweight and obese youth across different racial groups.
- Overweight youth teased about their weight are at risk for eating disorders and adverse psychological outcomes, and overweight girls who internalize negative stereotypes may be particularly vulnerable.
- Obese professional workers report more perceived mistreatment compared to obese persons of lower socioeconomic status.
- Obese adults report significantly higher levels of mistreatment compared to “normal weight” counterparts, even when demographic, socioeconomic status, and health characteristics are controlled.
“Collectively, the studies illustrate the detrimental impact of weight bias in many domains of living,” said Puhl. “It is a compelling social problem that requires efforts from scientists, health professionals and caretakers in order to improve the quality of life for obese children and adults and prevent the social disadvantages associated with stigmatization.”