Navigation Links
Racial and ethnic stereotypes may contribute to obesity among minorities

Many Americans need extraordinary willpower to avoid becoming obese or to slim down if they already weigh too much. For members of minority groups, maintaining a healthy weight can be that much harder according to new research led by Luis Rivera, an experimental social psychologist at Rutgers University-Newark.

Rivera says it is common for minorities in the United States to endure negative stereotypes, pervasive messages that suggest those groups are inferior, and that these attitudes can prevent people from doing what is needed to care for their health.

"When you are exposed to negative stereotypes, you may gravitate more toward unhealthy foods as opposed to healthy foods," explains Rivera, whose study appears in this summer's edition of the Journal of Social Issues. "You may have a less positive attitude toward watching your carbs or cutting back on fast food, and toward working out and exercising."

Rivera says the resulting difference in motivation may help explain at least in part higher rates of obesity in the United States among members of minority groups than among whites.

Rivera found that Latinos he studied were significantly more likely than whites to agree that negative stereotypes commonly used to describe Hispanics applied to them. The result suggested to Rivera that "somewhere in their heads they are making the connection that the stereotype is Latino, I am Latino, and therefore I am the stereotype."

Hispanics in the study who strongly self-stereotyped were more than three times as likely to be overweight or obese as those who did not. The data suggest that self-stereotypes diminish self-esteem and therefore the motivation that might have helped them follow a healthier lifestyle.

Rivera says demeaning stereotypes come from many sources. For instance, he says, television and other mass media frequently carry harmful messages, such as Latinos are lazy or Latinos are unintelligent. "And then," he adds, "there are more subtle ways in conversations and interactions with others. Although people don't say explicitly 'you are A, you are B,' there are ways in which those messages are communicated. It could be teachers. It could be your parents. It could be your friends."

Rivera says there even is evidence that Latinos born in this country tend to have a poorer self-image than many recent Hispanic immigrants suggesting that stereotypes ingrained in U.S. culture are especially potent and that the design of his research reinforces that view.

Aside from ethnicity, the people Rivera studied were nearly identical. They lived in the same neighborhood, had comparable incomes and had similar access to healthy foods, and he asked them the same questions additional evidence that if the whites and the Latinos saw themselves differently, society's prejudice against Latinos was the underlying reason.

So how does a person discouraged by stereotypes overcome them? According to Rivera, research suggests that exposure to positive racial and ethnic role models might help. Something else worth trying, he says, could be designing approaches to weight loss that emphasize the person's positive qualities as a way to counteract the corrosive effects of prejudice.

"It has been shown that when you remind people what they're good at, it works to immunize them from the effect of stereotypes," Rivera says. "It releases their anxieties and allows them to focus on the task before them and perform to their ability."


Contact: Robert Forman
Rutgers University

Related biology news :

1. Virginia Tech adjunct and colleagues refute a study on racial bias report in NIH awards
2. Parental disapproval contributes to racial/ethnic differences in prescription drug misuse by teens
3. Scientists find ethnicity linked to antibodies
4. Scientists discover ethnic differences in immune response to TB bacterium
5. HIV medications dialogue differs by race, ethnicity
6. Fathers ethnic background influences birthweight, study finds
7. Analysis of the Chinese facial profile: Contours of the side face in the Tu & Zang ethnic minorities
8. High levels of TRAIL protein in breast milk might contribute to anticancer activity
9. Breast-fed babies gut microbes contribute to healthy immune systems
10. Beetle-infested pine trees contribute more to air pollution and haze in forests
11. 23andMe contributes to genetic discoveries related to male pattern baldness
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/26/2015)... 2015 Research and Markets ( ) ... Sensors - Technology and Patent Infringement Risk Analysis" ... --> Fingerprint sensors using capacitive technology ... fingerprint sensor vendor Idex forecasts an increase of 360% ... devices and of the fingerprint sensor market between 2014 ...
(Date:11/19/2015)... MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. , Nov. 19, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... authentication market, Frost & Sullivan recognizes BIO-key with the ... Strategy Leadership. Each year, Frost & Sullivan presents this ... comprehensive product line catering to the needs of the ... which the product line meets and expands on customer ...
(Date:11/18/2015)... 18, 2015  As new scientific discoveries deepen our ... other healthcare providers face challenges in better using that ... In addition, as more children continue to survive pediatric ... and old age. John M. Maris, M.D ... of Philadelphia (CHOP) . --> John ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/30/2015)... ... November 30, 2015 , ... Global Stem ... and aesthetics professionals from Central America and abroad for the first Iberoamerican Convention ... Panama Feb. 17-19, 2016. Testart will present and discuss new trends in anti-aging ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... 2015  An interventional radiology technique shows promise for helping ... of a study being presented today at the annual meeting ... (RSNA). --> --> ... interventional radiologists as a way to stop bleeding in emergency ... means of treating obesity is new. Mubin Syed ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... Harvard Apparatus Regenerative Technology, Inc. (HART) ... bioengineered organ implants for life-threatening conditions, today announced ... Stock Market that it has regained compliance with ... that as a result of the closing bid ... per share for more than ten consecutive business ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... , Nov. 30, 2015  Champions Oncology, Inc. (CSBR), ... services to personalize the development and use of oncology ... Executive Officer, will be presenting at the LD MICRO ... Pacific Standard Time (PST).  The conference, held at the ... Angeles, CA , will feature 200 small/micro-cap companies ...
Breaking Biology Technology: