The stress of stigma: exploring the effect of weight stigma on cortisol reactivity.


Journal Article

OBJECTIVE: To determine the physiological impact of exposure to weight stigma by examining alterations in salivary cortisol among lean and overweight women. METHODS: Participants were 123 lean and overweight adult women (mean body mass index = 26.99 [7.91] kg/m(2)). Participants' salivary cortisol was assessed both before and after either a weight stigmatizing or a neutral video. Participants completed self-report measures of mood and reactions to the video. Height and weight were obtained at the conclusion of the study. RESULTS: Participants in the stigmatizing condition exhibited significantly greater cortisol reactivity when compared with those in the neutral condition, irrespective of weight status (Pillai trace = 0.077; F(1,85) = 7.22, p = .009). Lean and overweight women in the stigmatizing condition were equally likely to find the video upsetting and were equally likely to report that they would rather not see obese individuals depicted in a stigmatizing manner in the media. CONCLUSIONS: Exposure to weight-stigmatizing stimuli was associated with greater cortisol reactivity among lean and overweight women. These findings highlight the potentially harmful physiological consequences of exposure to weight stigma.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Schvey, NA; Puhl, RM; Brownell, KD

Published Date

  • February 2014

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 76 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 156 - 162

PubMed ID

  • 24434951

Pubmed Central ID

  • 24434951

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1534-7796

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0033-3174

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1097/psy.0000000000000031


  • eng