Mistreatment due to weight: Prevalence and sources of perceived mistreatment in women and men

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Objective: Previous research has documented prejudicial attitudes and discrimination against overweight people. Yet the extent to which overweight people themselves perceive that they have been mistreated because of their weight has not been carefully studied. The purpose of this study was to examine the prevalence of perceived mistreatment due to weight and sources of perceived mistreatment. Methods and Procedures: A non-clinical sample of healthy adults (187 men and 800 women) enrolled in a weight gain prevention program comprised the study population. A self-administered questionnaire was used to measure perceived mistreatment due to weight. Results: Overall, 22% of women and 17% of men reported weight-related mistreatment. The most commonly reported sources of mistreatment among women were strangers (12.5%) and a spouse or loved one (11.9%). Men were most likely to report mistreatment by a spouse or loved one (10.2%) and friends (7.5%). Somewhat surprisingly, sex differences in perceived weight-related mistreatment were significant only for stranger as the source. Perceived weight-related mistreatment was positively associated with body mass index (BMI) (r=0.39, p<0.0001). Reported mistreatment was nearly ten times as pervalent among individuals in the highest quartile of the BMI distribution (42.5%) than among those in the lowest BMI quartile (5.7%), but was significantly greater than zero in all but the very lean. Discussion: Perceived mistreatment due to weight is a common experience and is not restricted to the morbidly obese. Results are discussed in light of the sociocultural value for thinness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)572-576
Number of pages5
JournalObesity research
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1999


  • Obesity
  • Overweight
  • Stigmatization
  • Weight prejudice
  • Weight-related mistreatment


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