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Soc Sci Med. 2014 Oct;118:152-8. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.08.003. Epub 2014 Aug 7.

Stigma and the perpetuation of obesity.

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School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, United States. Electronic address:


Even as obesity rates reach new highs, the social stigmatization of obesity seems to be strengthening and globalizing. This review identifies at least four mechanisms by which a pervasive environment of fat stigma could reinforce high body weights or promote weight gain, ultimately driving population-level obesity. These are direct effects through behavior change because of feeling judged, and indirect effects of social network changes based on stigmatizing actions and decisions by others, psychosocial stress from feeling stigmatized, and the structural effects of discrimination. Importantly, women and children appear especially vulnerable to these mechanisms. The broader model provides an improved basis to investigate the role of stigma in driving the etiology of obesity, and explicates how individual, interpersonal, and structural dimensions of stigma are connected to variation in health outcomes, including across generations.


Embodiment; Gender; Obesity; Stigma; Stress; Weight gain

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