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Are You Sick of Weight Discrimination?

By on March 3, 2011

Discrimination is wrong for a variety of reasons. Here is one more–it can literally make a person sick. Research  from  Purdue  University implies that discrimination against obese people can directly impact their physical health.

“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,” noted the study’s leader, Markus Schafer.

About a third of the severely obese people in the U.S. questioned for the study reported that they faced some form of discriminatory experience. “It seems that many people are internalizing the prejudice and stigma they feel, and it contributes to stress, which ultimately affects their health,” Schafer said.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention report that 34 per cent of U.S. adults are overweight, meaning their body mass index (BMI) is between 25 and 29.9, and another 34 per cent are obese, with BMIs of 30 or higher. Twenty-four per cent of Canadians are considered obese, according to new statistics recently released.

“As expected, those who were obese fared worse in overall health when they were followed up with 10 years later,” Schafer said. “But we found there was a difference among those who felt they were discriminated against and those who didn’t.”

The co-author of the study, Kenneth Ferraro, noted that weight discrimination receives little attention despite the prevalence of weigt issues in the United States. “As the rates of obesity rise in this country, one might expect that anti-fat prejudice would decline,” he added. The Purdue team’s findings are published in the March issue of Social Psychology Quarterly.

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