Weight bias in the media: a review of recent research

Obes Facts. 2010 Feb;3(1):41-6. doi: 10.1159/000276547. Epub 2010 Feb 2.


Background: There is ample evidence that overweight and obese individuals are stigmatized in various forms of media. This weight bias is particularly disconcerting when it targets children and adolescents.

Objective: The current review surveys the most recent 15 years of research on weight bias and stigmatization in the media and discusses some theoretical models that might help explain the negative effects of such material.

Method: PsycINFO searches were conducted using weight bias- and stigmatization-related terms and phrases. Results were limited to journal articles published in English between 1994 and 2009.

Results: Overall, the data indicate that a wide range of media - from television shows to books, newspapers, and the internet - portray overweight and obese individuals in a stigmatizing manner.

Conclusion: More research on this topic is needed to discern a direct connection between exposure to such material and psychological or physical harm to the viewer. Additionally, virtually all of the research has been conducted in the USA; research in other countries should be a top priority. Efforts to try to educate the media to the deleterious effects of media presentations of weight bias are indicated.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Body Weight* / physiology
  • Child
  • Communications Media* / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Overweight / psychology
  • Prejudice*
  • Professional Role