Changes in perceived weight discrimination among Americans, 1995-1996 through 2004-2006

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2008 May;16(5):1129-34. doi: 10.1038/oby.2008.35. Epub 2008 Feb 28.


Objective: Little is known about the prevalence and patterns of weight discrimination in the United States. This study examined the trends in perceived weight/height discrimination among a nationally representative sample of adults aged 35-74 years, comparing experiences of discrimination based on race, age, and gender.

Methods and procedures: Data were from the two waves of the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS), a survey of community-based English-speaking adults initially in 1995-1996 and a follow-up in 2004- 2006. Reported experiences of weight/height discrimination included a variety of settings in major lifetime events and interpersonal relationships.

Results: The prevalence of weight/height discrimination increased from 7% in 1995-1996 to 12% in 2004-2006, affecting all population groups but the elderly. This growth is unlikely to be explained by changes in obesity rates.

Discussion: Weight/height discrimination is highly prevalent in American society and increasing at disturbing rates. Its prevalence is relatively close to reported rates of race and age discrimination, but virtually no legal or social sanctions against weight discrimination exist.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / ethnology
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Prejudice*
  • Prevalence
  • Racial Groups
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Perception*
  • United States