The weight of fat discrimination
March 3rd, 2011
02:11 PM ET

The weight of fat discrimination

Fat discrimination can contribute to worsening health problems, according to a study published in the journal Social Psychology Quarterly.

Markus Schafer, lead author and sociology and gerontology student at Purdue University, explored whether the tolls of weight discrimination were compounding the negative health effects of obesity.

Using a data survey from 3,000 Americans, Schafer looked at how their health changed over 10 years of their lives. Not surprisingly, the people who were more obese fared worse over the decade.

“The people who faced more discrimination had the steeper declines in health,” Schafer said.

Their ability to climb stairs, bend, and carry everyday items - key measures for health status – declined, he said.

One-third of morbidly obese people reported facing discrimination in their work force, communities and basic services.  Fat bias operates as the ‘‘last acceptable basis of discrimination,’’ he wrote.

The findings suggest that discrimination or mistreatment of overweight people does not encourage them to lose weight or become healthier.

“There are inappropriate and appropriate ways" to encourage weight loss, he said.  “To discriminate overtly, those types of behaviors can actually do more harm than good.”

“Obese people who face discrimination basically face a double jeopardy," he said.  "They face health challenges on two fronts: They face dangers in health related to physiological effects of carrying a lot of weight, but those effects can be confounded by mistreatment by others.  Discrimination and marginalization can compound the effects.”

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