Is Weight Discrimination Affecting Your Health?

Lisa Nelson, RD, LN Health Pro
  • I just read an interesting study published in Social Psychology Quarterly March 2011. It provides another example of how much our thoughts impact our health and I'd like to give you a brief summary of the study and its' findings.

    Weight Discrimination Theory

    The purpose of the study was to show that extra pounds alone don't account for all the health problems and overweight or obese individual lives with. This study suggests that discrimination against those who are overweight and obese contribute to health declines.

    The theory behind this is that individuals with a higher body mass index are more likely to feel discriminated against due to their weight. The more an individual believes they are a victim of weight discrimination the more their health is impacted.

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    The Study

    Purdue University researchers analyzed date from 1856 participants in the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States. Survey participants completed questionnaires in 1995 and 1996 and a second survey in 2005. Participants provided information on their height and weight, whether or not they considered themselves to be overweight, their general health, their degree of functional disability, and whether or not they had experienced weight discrimination. (Functional disability measures an individuals ability to complete self-care activities, physical mobility, and performance of household tasks.)

    The Results

    Results found the heavier participants became the more likely they felt they had been victims of weight discrimination. Almost 11% of participants with a body mass index (BMI) between 30 to 34.9 reported weight discrimination and 33% of individuals with a BMI greater than 35 reported being the victim of weight discrimination. Less than 5% of individuals who were not obese reported being discriminated against due to weight.

    Individuals who had experienced weight discrimination were more likely to feel even heavier and consider themselves to be very overweight. These individuals also reported greater health declines. Individuals with a body mass index greater than 30 rated their health to be worse after one decade than normal weight participants. The study indicated a moderate impact on health declines being more significant for participants who felt they had experienced weight discrimination.

    Are you overweight or obese? Have you been discriminated against due to your weight? Do you feel this has impacted your overall health?

    I'd love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to share below.

    You can access the free e-course How to Lower Cholesterol in 8 Simple Steps provided courtesy of Health Central dietitian Lisa Nelson at


Published On: March 10, 2011