Fast Facts: Weight Stigma
Weight stigma is stereotyping, bias or judgment based on one’s weight or size. Weight stigma drives bullying statements, actions and behaviors that diminish a person’s self-esteem and compromises their quality of life. Stigma also limits people’s ability to secure housing, healthcare, education and employment.
Weight Stigma In Everyday Life
A study by the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University revealed that weight discrimination is as common as racial discrimination, and women experience weight discrimination twice as often as men.
This study also found:
- 6% of moderately overweight men and women report experiencing bias because of their size
- 13% of individuals with obesity report experiencing bias
- 40% of individuals with severe obesity report experiencing bias
Weight Stigma in Healthcare
In 2003, researchers surveyed more than 600 physicians and found that more than half considered obese patients as non-compliant, awkward and unattractive. One-third viewed them as weak-willed and lazy. Even doctors specializing in obesity treatment harbor significant weight biases, according to more recent studies.
Out of twenty possible sources of weight stigma, doctors were identified as the second most frequent source of bias reported.
Weight Stigma In the Workplace
Studies suggest that weight impacts about one-third of hiring decisions and that women who are obese earn approximately 3.5% to 30% less than non-obese women for similar work.
Overweight workers earn $1.25 less an hour, and over a lifetime will earn $100,000 less than their thinner counterparts.
The number of people who reported experiencing weight discrimination doubled between 1996 and 2006. Among people who have obesity, approximately 28% of men and 45% of women said they have experienced discrimination because of their weight.
Protection From Stigma and Discrimination
Discrimination against people because of their body weight is not legally protected, but the American with Disabilities Amendment Act (2013) provides a broader view of disability and may allow protection in the future.
 Puhl, RM, Andreyeva,T, and Brownell, KD (2008). Perceptions of weight discrimination: Prevalence and comparison to race and gender discrimination in America. International Journal of Obesity. 32,992-1000.
 Ulene, V. (2010, December 13). Doctor And Nurses’ Weight Biases Harm Overweight Patients. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 22, 2014, from http://articles.latimes.com/2010/dec/13/health
Puhl, R., & Brownell, K.D. (2006). Confronting and coping with weight stigma: An investigation of overweight and obese individuals. Obesity, 14, 1802-1815.)
Brownell, K. D. (2005). Weight bias: Nature, consequences, and remedies. New York: Guilford Press.
Baum, C. L. and Ford, W. F. (2004), The wage effects of obesity: a longitudinal study. Health Econ, 13: 885–899.
 The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, http://www.naafaonline.com/dev2/the_issues/. Retrieved July 22, 2014.
Andreyeva, T., Puhl, R.M., Brownell, K.D. (2008). Changes in perceived weight discrimination among Americans, 1995-1996 through 2004-2006. Obesity, 16(5), 1129-1134.
 Pomeranz, J.L., Puhl, R.M. (2013.) New developments in the law for obesity discrimination protection, Obesity. 21(3):469-71.