Correlates of weight stigma in adults with overweight and obesity: A systematic literature review

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2015 Sep;23(9):1743-60. doi: 10.1002/oby.21187. Epub 2015 Aug 11.


Objective: While evidence regarding associations between weight stigma and biopsychosocial outcomes is accumulating, outcomes are considered in isolation. Thus, little is known about their complex relationships. This article extends existing work by systematically reviewing the biopsychosocial consequences of stigma in adults with overweight/obesity.

Methods: Articles were identified through Medline, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Embase, Web of Science, and Cochrane databases. Independent extraction of articles was conducted using predefined data fields, including data on biopsychosocial correlates in each study.

Results: Twenty-three studies published from 2001 and addressing correlates of stigma in adults with overweight/obesity (body mass index ≥25 kg m(-2); 18-65 years) were identified. Numerous biopsychosocial correlates of weight stigma were studied, particularly in treatment-seeking individuals. Available research shows that weight stigma is consistently associated with medication non-adherence, mental health, anxiety, perceived stress, antisocial behavior, substance use, coping strategies, and social support. Biopsychosocial correlates were not considered in combination in research. Psychological correlates were well documented in comparison to biological and social correlates for each weight stigma type. There were some indications that associations are stronger once stigma is internalized.

Conclusions: While there is evidence for biopsychosocial correlates of weight stigma, these are not considered in combination in research; thus their inter-relationships are unknown. Conclusions from the review are limited by this and the small number of studies, types of designs, and variables considered.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Overweight / psychology*
  • Prejudice*
  • Self Concept
  • Social Perception*
  • Social Stigma*