Weight Discrimination and Risk of Mortality

Psychol Sci. 2015 Nov;26(11):1803-11. doi: 10.1177/0956797615601103. Epub 2015 Sep 29.


Discrimination based on weight is a stressful social experience linked to declines in physical and mental health. We examined whether this harmful association extends to risk of mortality. Participants in the Health and Retirement Study (HRS; N = 13,692) and the Midlife in the United States Study (MIDUS; N = 5,079) reported on perceived discriminatory experiences and attributed those experiences to a number of personal characteristics, including weight. Weight discrimination was associated with an increase in mortality risk of nearly 60% in both HRS participants (hazard ratio = 1.57, 95% confidence interval = [1.34, 1.84]) and MIDUS participants (hazard ratio = 1.59, 95% confidence interval = [1.09, 2.31]). This increased risk was not accounted for by common physical and psychological risk factors. The association between mortality and weight discrimination was generally stronger than that between mortality and other attributions for discrimination. In addition to its association with poor health outcomes, weight discrimination may shorten life expectancy.

Keywords: health; open data; open materials; psychological stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality*
  • Overweight / psychology*
  • Prejudice*
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Social Discrimination*
  • Stress, Psychological / diagnosis*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States