Stigma Often Adds to Burden of Obesity03/03/11
THURSDAY, March 3 (HealthDay News) -- Obese people are already
at risk for a range of health issues, but their problems can be
made worse if they feel they are being discriminated against
because of their weight, researchers say.
The new study included 1,500 adults, aged 25 to 74, who were
surveyed in 1995 and again in 2005 as part of the National Survey
of Midlife Development in the United States. Using a measurement
based on height and weight called the body mass index (BMI), Purdue
University researchers compared the participants' BMIs to their
health and perceptions of weight discrimination.
The results are published in the March issue of the journal
Social Psychology Quarterly.
"As expected, those who were obese fared worse in overall health when they were followed up with 10 years later. But we found there was a difference among those who felt they were discriminated against and those who didn't," study leader Markus H. Schafer, a doctoral student in sociology and gerontology, said in a journal news release.
Discrimination was reported by about 11 percent of participants
who were moderately obese and 33 percent of those who were severely
obese. These two groups had the sharpest decline over time in their
functional abilities to perform daily activities, such as being
able to climb stairs or carry items.
"Obesity is a physiological issue, but when people have negative interactions in their social world -- including a sense of being discriminated against -- it can make matters worse and contribute to a person's declining physical health," Schafer said.
The study findings suggest that many obese people "are
internalizing the prejudice and stigma they feel, and it
contributes to stress, which ultimately affects their health," he
The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney
Diseases outlines the
health risks of being overweight.
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