WASHINGTON, DC, March 1, 2011 The discrimination that obese people feel, whether it is poor service at a restaurant or being treated differently in the workplace, may have a direct impact on their physical health, according to new research from Purdue University.
"Obesity is a physiological issue, but when people have negative interactions in their social worldincluding a sense of being discriminated againstit can make matters worse and contribute to a person's declining physical health," said Markus H. Schafer, the doctoral student in sociology and gerontology who led the study. "We found that around a third of the severely obese people in the United States report facing some form of discriminatory experience, and the experience of weight discrimination plays into people's own perspective about their weight. It seems that many people are internalizing the prejudice and stigma they feel, and it contributes to stress, which ultimately affects their health."
Whether someone is overweight or obese is determined by the body mass index scale, which accounts for height, weight, and gender. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 34% of U.S. adults are overweight and another 34% are obese. Being overweight is a predisposition for obesity, which puts people at risk for cancers, heart disease, diabetes, and other complications and quality of life issues.
The Purdue team's findings are published in the March issue of Social Psychology Quarterly. Schafer, along with Kenneth F. Ferraro, a distinguished professor of sociology, compared body mass indexes to people's health and perceptions of weight discrimination. More than 1,500 people, ages 25-74, were surveyed in 1995 and 2005 about issues related to aging and health equality as part of the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States.
"As expected, those who were obese fared worse in overall health when they were followed up with 10 years later
|Contact: Daniel Fowler|
American Sociological Association