Weight stigma: what is it anyway?

Men who have experienced some level of body weight stigma are more likely to be faced with depressive symptoms, to binge eat, and to rate their health as poorer.

A person’s weight can be a source of stigmatisation and prejudice by others. Negative bias against a person’s weight has been seen in employment, education, and healthcare settings and even family members are not immune from this negative judgement. This stigma can contribute to both physical and emotional health problems.

It is not just women who are scrutinised for their weight. Men experience it as well. Despite more than 20 studies examining the health effects of weight stigma in the past five years alone, most of these have been limited to women. Not as much is known about how weight stigma can affect the health of men.

In two samples of men recruited from across the United States, over 1,700 participants completed self-reported measures assessing their weight, demographics and weight stigma (experienced and internalised). Health measures to do with mental health, health behaviours such as smoking, diet and exercise and self-rated health were also collected.

The key findings were that weight stigma was linked with a greater risk of depression and more dieting behaviours and binge eating. Men who internalised weight stigma also had lower self-rated health.

Weight stigma though was not linked to physical activity, smoking, drinking, or having trouble sleeping  These findings were independent of race, socioeconomic status and body mass index.

Implications of Weight Stigma

It affects both genders and can be equally damaging to health and wellbeing. There is a need for greater attention to men for health professionals treating men for health conditions in which this stigma could be a contributing factor.

 


How to get help

If you need immediate help, call triple zero ‘000’.

Important national numbers for help:

  • Emergency 24/7 – 000
  • 1800 RESPECT 24/7 – 1800 737 732
  • Kids Help Line 24/7 – 1800 551 800
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  • Men’s Line – 1300 789 978
  • Men’s Referral Service 24/7 – 1300 766 491
  • TIS – need an interpreter? – 131 450

Important online help

Last Reviewed: 27/07/2020

© Norman Swan Medical Communications.



References

For reference: Himmelstein MS et al. Overlooked and understudied: health consequences of weight stigma in men. Obesity Epub online 31 July 2019 doi: 10.1002/oby.22599.

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