Fast Facts: Weight

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.[1]

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.[2]

Out of twenty possible sources of weight stigma, doctors were identified as the second most frequent source of bias reported.[3]

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.[4]

Overweight workers earn $1.25 less an hour, and over a lifetime will earn $100,000 less than their thinner counterparts.[5]

The number of people who reported experiencing weight discrimination doubled between 1996 and 2006.[6] Among people who have obesity, approximately 28% of men and 45% of women said they have experienced discrimination because of their weight.[7]

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.[8]


[1] 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.

[2] Ulene, V. (2010, December 13). Doctor And Nurses’ Weight Biases Harm Overweight Patients. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 22, 2014, from

[3]Puhl, R., & Brownell, K.D. (2006). Confronting and coping with weight stigma: An investigation of overweight and obese individuals. Obesity, 14, 1802-1815.)

[4]Brownell, K. D. (2005). Weight bias: Nature, consequences, and remedies. New York: Guilford Press.

[5]Baum, C. L. and Ford, W. F. (2004), The wage effects of obesity: a longitudinal study. Health Econ, 13: 885–899.

[6] The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, Retrieved July 22, 2014.

[7]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.

[8]  Pomeranz, J.L., Puhl, R.M. (2013.) New developments in the law for obesity discrimination protection, Obesity. 21(3):469-71.