Obesity and discrimination - a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies

Obes Rev. 2016 Jan;17(1):43-55. doi: 10.1111/obr.12343. Epub 2015 Nov 24.


Background: Research on obesity has shown that stigma often accompanies obesity and impacts many life domains. No previous research has systematically reviewed published literature about the prevalence and the nature of perceived weight discrimination in individuals with obesity. This systematic review and meta-analysis aims to fill that gap.

Methods: A systematic literature search was conducted without time limits using the databases Medline, ISI Web of Knowledge and the Cochrane Library. Meta-analyses were performed using random effect models. Observational studies pertaining to (i) prevalence estimates and (ii) forms of perceived weight discrimination among individuals with obesity were included.

Results: Of 4393 citations retrieved, nine citations retrieved, nine studies met inclusion criteria. Pooled prevalence was 19.2% (95% confidence interval (CI) 11.7 to 29.8%) for individuals with class I obesity (Body mass index [BMI] = 30-35 kg m(-2) ) and 41.8% (95% CI 36.9 to 46.9%) for individuals with more extreme obesity (BMI > 35 kg m(-2) ). Findings from nationally representative US samples revealed higher prevalence estimates in individuals with higher BMI values (BMI > 35 kg m(-2) ) and in women.

Conclusions: The results provide evidence that perceptions of weight discrimination by individuals with obesity were common, and its negative consequences are highly relevant issues within society and need to be the focus of potential interventions. © 2015 World Obesity.

Keywords: discrimination; obesity; stigma; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Depression / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Self Concept
  • Social Stigma*