Perceptions of weight discrimination: prevalence and comparison to race and gender discrimination in America.


Journal Article

OBJECTIVE: Limited data are available on the prevalence and patterns of body weight discrimination from representative samples. This study examined experiences of weight/height discrimination in a nationally representative sample of US adults and compared their prevalence and patterns with discrimination experiences based on race and gender. METHOD AND PROCEDURES: Data were from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States, a 1995-1996 community-based survey of English-speaking adults aged 25-74 (N=2290). Reported experiences of weight/height discrimination included a variety of institutional settings and interpersonal relationships. Multivariate regression analyses were used to predict weight/height discrimination controlling for sociodemographic characteristics and body weight status. RESULTS: The prevalence of weight/height discrimination ranged from 5% among men to 10% among women, but these average percentages obscure the much higher risk of weight discrimination among heavier individuals (40% for adults with body mass index (BMI) of 35 and above). Younger individuals with a higher BMI had a particularly high risk of weight/height discrimination regardless of their race, education and weight status. Women were at greater risk for weight/height discrimination than men, especially women with a BMI of 30-35 who were three times more likely to report weight/height discrimination compared to male peers of a similar weight. DISCUSSION: Weight/height discrimination is prevalent in American society and is relatively close to reported rates of racial discrimination, particularly among women. Both institutional forms of weight/height discrimination (for example, in employment settings) and interpersonal mistreatment due to weight/height (for example, being called names) were common, and in some cases were even more prevalent than discrimination due to gender and race.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Puhl, RM; Andreyeva, T; Brownell, KD

Published Date

  • June 2008

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 32 / 6

Start / End Page

  • 992 - 1000

PubMed ID

  • 18317471

Pubmed Central ID

  • 18317471

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1476-5497

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0307-0565

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1038/ijo.2008.22


  • eng