Obesity stigma: important considerations for public health

Am J Public Health. 2010 Jun;100(6):1019-28. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2009.159491. Epub 2010 Jan 14.


Stigma and discrimination toward obese persons are pervasive and pose numerous consequences for their psychological and physical health. Despite decades of science documenting weight stigma, its public health implications are widely ignored. Instead, obese persons are blamed for their weight, with common perceptions that weight stigmatization is justifiable and may motivate individuals to adopt healthier behaviors. We examine evidence to address these assumptions and discuss their public health implications. On the basis of current findings, we propose that weight stigma is not a beneficial public health tool for reducing obesity. Rather, stigmatization of obese individuals threatens health, generates health disparities, and interferes with effective obesity intervention efforts. These findings highlight weight stigma as both a social justice issue and a priority for public health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Prejudice
  • Public Health*
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Social Justice / psychology
  • Stereotyping*