The impact of obesity on the social participation of older adults

J Gen Psychol. 2008 Oct;135(4):409-23. doi: 10.3200/GENP.135.4.409-424.


Previous research (e.g., R. Puhl & K. P. Brownell, 2001) has indicated that stigma associated with obesity contributes to diminished social engagement for the obese, but there is evidence that this stigma is more pronounced in younger age groups. The present authors investigated whether the negative association between obesity and social participation that is apparent in younger age groups continues in older adulthood. The authors analyzed interview data from 1,439 participants aged 60-93 years (M age = 71 years, SD = 5.7 years) from the Changing Lives of Older Couples Study (D. Carr, R. Nesse, & C. Wortman, 2005). Regression results indicated that hypothesized interactions between age and body mass index (BMI) in predicting social participation were not significant after controlling for demographic variables, health status, depression, and self-esteem. In fact, higher BMI was associated with greater overall and formal social participation (i.e., organizations, volunteer work, church), suggesting not only that stigmatization against the obese appears to decrease with age but also that additional factors play a role.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Body Image
  • Body Mass Index
  • Depression / psychology
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Probability
  • Self Concept
  • Social Behavior*
  • Stereotyping*
  • Young Adult