That obesity can cause serious health problems is not new, but a recent study published in Psychological Science states that weight discrimination causes an increase in mortality of up to two thirds .
The psychological effects of this discrimination, whether through teasing or rejection by others, increase the likelihood that overweight people will participate in activities that contribute to maintaining or worsening their situation, such as not exercising or eating unhealthy food .
Discrimination against people who are overweight or obese causes psychological damage
Angelina Sutin, researcher at the Florida State University School of Medicine and co-director of this study, states that “Although some may think that if someone feels hurt because of discrimination, they will be motivated to lose weight and seek a healthier lifestyle, this is not true” .
According to this research, the opposite is true, since Sutin adds: “Our study has shown that this approach is not correct, since discrimination on the basis of weight causes serious psychological problems in the person who suffers it” .
The study data
The study was conducted by Angelina Sutin and Antonio Terracciano, was published in Psychological Science and involved a sample of over 18,000 subjects. The data were extracted from two longitudinal studies.
The first of these, called “The Health and Retirement Study”, began in 1992 at the University of Michigan with the collaboration of the National Institute on Aging (United States) and involved 13,962 participants. The other study, called “Midlife in the United States”, began in 1995 at the MacArthur Foundation Research Network and involved 5,070 subjects.
Conclusions of the study
After considering Body Mass Index (BMI), subjective health level, burden of disease, depressive symptoms, smoking history, and physical activity level, the researchers found that weight discrimination was associated with a more than 60 percent increased risk of death .
Regarding the study, Sutin concluded that “regardless of BMI, weight discrimination causes an increased risk of mortality. This is not due to weight, but to the consequences of discrimination” .
In previous research, Sutin and Terracciano have already shown that individuals who experience discrimination on the basis of their excess body weight tend to remain obese, develop chronic health problems, and have less satisfaction with life. The data from the new study warn that discrimination is one of the main problems for which people who are obese or overweight have a higher risk of dying .
Obesity and discrimination in today’s society
In a globalized world, overweight has become a risk factor not only for health but also for personal dignity. The culture of aesthetics has favoured associating personal success with having a “body ten”. Since thinness is taken as a supreme value, pathologies associated with body image are one of the main problems psychologists encounter on a daily basis , as they affect many individuals, especially adolescents.
Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are growing at an alarming rate every day, and so far, prevention policies have achieved little to curb this phenomenon. The “collective madness” to achieve the ideal weight, turns the obese into strange beings, and they constantly suffer the humiliation and discrimination of a society that has become tremendously selfish and inconsiderate .
Increasingly, the logic of advertising and media imposes on us a model of unreal aesthetics and beauty.Individuals who do not fit into the parameters of this society of aesthetics are pushed aside and marginalized. Social Darwinism, characteristic of Western societies, causes the obese to be seen as something that one is afraid of and does not want to become .
This study shows the negative consequences of rejection for a matter of weight, and it should not be forgotten that the epidemic of obesity and overweight that is affecting developed societies has a social and political origin . No matter how much blame is placed on obese individuals, we must stop seeing this problem as an individual phenomenon, in order to improve their quality of life. If we were to think about improving collective well-being and not so much about the accumulation of wealth, this could be achieved.