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Obesity (Silver Spring). 2016 Jun;24(6):1366-72. doi: 10.1002/oby.21474. Epub 2016 Apr 26.

Perceived weight discrimination, childhood maltreatment, and weight gain in U.S. adults with overweight/obesity.

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School of Public Health, University at Albany, State University of New York, Rensselaer, New York, USA.
Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.
National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (at Yale), New Haven, Connecticut, USA.



Perceived weight discrimination and childhood maltreatment have been independently associated with physical and mental health issues, as well as weight gain. It is not known, however, whether childhood maltreatment modifies the relationship between perceived weight discrimination and weight changes.


This study examined the relationship between perceived weight discrimination, childhood maltreatment, and changes in body mass index (BMI) over 3 years in 21,357 men and women with overweight and obesity from Wave 1 and Wave 2 surveys of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC).


Reporting childhood maltreatment, regardless of the specific form of maltreatment, was associated with a significantly greater likelihood of perceived weight discrimination in women. Perceived weight discrimination was associated with a significantly greater increase in BMI in both genders. Among all women with perceived weight discrimination, those who also reported having experienced childhood maltreatment had significantly less BMI increase compared to those reporting not having experienced childhood maltreatment.


Perceived weight discrimination may foster weight gain rather than encouraging weight loss in individuals with overweight/obesity and should be addressed in prevention efforts and clinical settings. Childhood maltreatment may perhaps sensitize individuals to subsequent stressors and increase vulnerability to perceived weight discrimination, particularly in women.

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