Recent experiences of weight-based stigmatization in a weight loss surgery population: psychological and behavioral correlates

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2008 Nov;16 Suppl 2:S69-74. doi: 10.1038/oby.2008.457.


Objective: This study evaluated the association between experiences of weight-based stigmatization (e.g., job discrimination, inappropriate comments from physicians) within the past month, psychological functioning, and binge eating among a sample of individuals seeking weight loss surgery.

Methods and procedure: Ninety-four obese adults (25 males and 69 females) seeking weight loss surgery underwent a diagnostic clinical interview and completed a battery of self-report questionnaires measuring experiences of weight-related stigmatization, psychological adjustment, and binge eating behavior.

Results: Weight-based stigmatization was a common experience within the past month among participants. Frequency of stigmatizing experiences was negatively associated with self-esteem and positively associated with depression, anxiety, body image disturbance, and emotional eating. Recent experiences of stigmatization were associated with a diagnosis of binge eating disorder.

Discussion: Weight-based stigmatization is a common experience among obese individuals seeking weight loss surgery, and these experiences are associated with deleterious consequences. It appears that environmental barriers (e.g., chairs too small, not being able to find medical equipment in an appropriate size) and interpersonal attacks are the most common stigmatizing experiences. These data justify future studies to better understand causal relationships and efforts to design and test interventions aimed at reducing weight-based stigmatization and the associated negative consequences.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Bariatric Surgery / psychology*
  • Body Image
  • Bulimia / etiology
  • Bulimia Nervosa / etiology
  • Depression / etiology
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Obesity / surgery*
  • Prejudice*
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Self Concept
  • Stereotyping*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors