How and why weight stigma drives the obesity 'epidemic' and harms health

A. Janet Tomiyama, Deborah Carr, Ellen M. Granberg, Brenda Major, Eric Robinson, Angelina R. Sutin, Alexandra Slade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: In an era when obesity prevalence is high throughout much of the world, there is a correspondingly pervasive and strong culture of weight stigma. For example, representative studies show that some forms of weight discrimination are more prevalent even than discrimination based on race or ethnicity. Discussion: In this Opinion article, we review compelling evidence that weight stigma is harmful to health, over and above objective body mass index. Weight stigma is prospectively related to heightened mortality and other chronic diseases and conditions. Most ironically, it actually begets heightened risk of obesity through multiple obesogenic pathways. Weight stigma is particularly prevalent and detrimental in healthcare settings, with documented high levels of 'anti-fat' bias in healthcare providers, patients with obesity receiving poorer care and having worse outcomes, and medical students with obesity reporting high levels of alcohol and substance use to cope with internalized weight stigma. In terms of solutions, the most effective and ethical approaches should be aimed at changing the behaviors and attitudes of those who stigmatize, rather than towards the targets of weight stigma. Medical training must address weight bias, training healthcare professionals about how it is perpetuated and on its potentially harmful effects on their patients. Conclusion: Weight stigma is likely to drive weight gain and poor health and thus should be eradicated. This effort can begin by training compassionate and knowledgeable healthcare providers who will deliver better care and ultimately lessen the negative effects of weight stigma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number123
JournalBMC Medicine
Volume16
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 15 2018

Fingerprint

Obesity
Weights and Measures
Health
Health Personnel
Drive
Delivery of Health Care
Medical Students
Weight Gain
Body Mass Index
Chronic Disease
Fats
Alcohols
Mortality

Keywords

  • Anti-fat attitudes
  • Discrimination
  • Health policy
  • Obesity
  • Weight bias
  • Weight stigma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

Cite this

Tomiyama, A. J., Carr, D., Granberg, E. M., Major, B., Robinson, E., Sutin, A. R., & Slade, A. (2018). How and why weight stigma drives the obesity 'epidemic' and harms health. BMC Medicine, 16(1), [123]. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-018-1116-5

How and why weight stigma drives the obesity 'epidemic' and harms health. / Tomiyama, A. Janet; Carr, Deborah; Granberg, Ellen M.; Major, Brenda; Robinson, Eric; Sutin, Angelina R.; Slade, Alexandra.

In: BMC Medicine, Vol. 16, No. 1, 123, 15.08.2018.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Tomiyama, AJ, Carr, D, Granberg, EM, Major, B, Robinson, E, Sutin, AR & Slade, A 2018, 'How and why weight stigma drives the obesity 'epidemic' and harms health', BMC Medicine, vol. 16, no. 1, 123. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-018-1116-5
Tomiyama AJ, Carr D, Granberg EM, Major B, Robinson E, Sutin AR et al. How and why weight stigma drives the obesity 'epidemic' and harms health. BMC Medicine. 2018 Aug 15;16(1). 123. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-018-1116-5
Tomiyama, A. Janet ; Carr, Deborah ; Granberg, Ellen M. ; Major, Brenda ; Robinson, Eric ; Sutin, Angelina R. ; Slade, Alexandra. / How and why weight stigma drives the obesity 'epidemic' and harms health. In: BMC Medicine. 2018 ; Vol. 16, No. 1.
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