Men may experience weight stigma as much as women

April 24, 2018 by Daniel P. Jones, University of Connecticut
A new study by the UConn Rudd Center finds that a significant portion of adult American men report being mistreated about their weight. Credit: UConn Rudd Center Photo

A new study by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut finds that a significant portion of adult American men report being mistreated about their weight. The findings suggest that men may be experiencing weight stigma at rates similar to women.

Negative biases against people with are widespread, and can contribute to physical and . Previous studies of weight stigma have often focused on women, and indicate that women experience weight stigma more than men.

Recent evidence, however, suggests the gap between men and women in experiencing weight stigma may be smaller than previously thought. Yet little research has been conducted on weight stigma in men exclusively – until now.

"Given the popular notion that concerns about body weight and weight stigma are primarily 'women's issues,' our study highlights the importance of recognizing weight stigma as a problem that both men and women experience," says Mary Himmelstein, a UConn Rudd Center postdoctoral fellow and lead author of the study.

The study, published today in the journal Obesity, is the first comprehensive analysis of weight stigma in men exclusively. The research involved three groups of men: 1,244 men from a diverse national survey panel; 233 men from a national online data collection service; and 36 male members of the Obesity Action Coalition who have struggled with their weight.

The 1,513 participants completed online surveys between July 2015 and October 2016. In all three samples, men answered questions about their demographic characteristics, weight status and dieting behavior, and history of experiencing weight stigma.

Key findings of the new study include:

  • About 40 percent of men across all three samples reported experiencing weight stigma.
  • Men who reported experiencing stigma were younger, less likely to be married, more likely to have obesity, and more likely to have tried to lose weight in the past year.
  • Weight stigma occurred most often in adolescence and childhood, most commonly in the form of being verbally mistreated or teased about their weight. Peers, family members, and strangers were the most common sources of this mistreatment.

Unlike women, who tend to experience more weight stigma as their body weight increases, men in this study reported experiencing the greatest stigma at (BMI) levels consistent with being underweight or having obesity, relative to normal weight and overweight.

"Our study shows that men should be included in studies of weight stigma as a vulnerable population instead of simply a comparison group to ," Himmelstein said. "Given that most men reporting weight stigma in our study were actively trying to lose weight, our findings indicate there may be opportunities for supportive interventions to help men cope with weight as part of weight management or loss programs."

Explore further: Many Americans blame themselves for weight stigma

More information: Mary S. Himmelstein et al. Weight Stigma in Men: What, When, and by Whom?, Obesity (2018). DOI: 10.1002/oby.22162

Related Stories

Many Americans blame themselves for weight stigma

October 31, 2017
A new study by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut shows that many individuals who are targets of weight bias also internalize the stigma directed towards them, blaming themselves ...

Race and gender affect response to weight stigma

June 9, 2017
A new study by researchers at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at UConn has found that although people of all races and genders are stigmatized for being overweight, there are differences in how particular groups ...

Bias keeps women with higher body weights away from the doctor: study

April 23, 2018
A study out of Drexel University's Dornsife School of Public Health linked past experiences with bias and discrimination and avoidance of doctors in women with higher body weights.

How stigma in the healthcare system is undermining efforts to reduce obesity

March 23, 2018
Obesity is a global public health concern due to its associations with an increased risk of poor mental and physical health. This is why attempts to prevent and treat obesity – especially in children – have become a focus ...

Weight stigma a daily experience for obese people

November 27, 2014
Overweight and obese people experience many more episodes of being stigmatised in their everyday lives than was realised, with most suffering almost daily negative treatment, a UNSW-led study shows.

Study finds stigma regarding weight loss may be overblown

February 17, 2016
A qualitative study from North Carolina State University finds that most people who have lost a lot of weight don't perceive themselves as being "judged" because they used to be overweight or obese - which contradicts earlier ...

Recommended for you

Antidepressant use may contribute to long-term population weight gain

May 24, 2018
Researchers at King's College London have found that patients prescribed any of the 12 most commonly used antidepressants were 21% more likely to experience an episode of gain weight than those not taking the drugs, (after ...

Can excess weight in toddlers cause brain drain?

May 23, 2018
(HealthDay)—Extra pounds in early childhood may do more than put a child's physical health at risk—they might result in a slightly lower IQ, new research suggests.

Early-life obesity impacts children's learning and memory, study suggests

May 23, 2018
A new study by Brown University epidemiologists found that children on the threshold of obesity or overweight in the first two years of life had lower perceptual reasoning and working memory scores than lean children when ...

World faces 'staggering' obesity challenge: study

May 23, 2018
In 27 years from now, almost a quarter of the global population will be obese, researchers said Wednesday, warning of the mounting medical bill.

Some calories more harmful than others

May 15, 2018
While calories from any food have the potential to increase the risk of obesity and other cardiometabolic diseases, 22 nutrition researchers agree that sugar-sweetened beverages play a unique role in chronic health problems. ...

Fat cells seem to remember unhealthy diet

April 23, 2018
It only takes 24 hours for a so-called precursor fat cell to reprogram its epigenetic recipe for developing into a fat cell. This change occurs when the cell is put into contact with the fatty acid palmitate or the hormone ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.