Obesity stigma as a globalizing health challenge

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130 Scopus citations


Background: Based on studies conducted in the global north, it is well documented that those who feel stigmatized by overweight/obesity can suffer extreme emotional distress, be subject to (often legal and socially-acceptable) discrimination, and adjust diet and exercise behaviors. These lead to significant negative health impacts, including depression and further weight gain. To date, weight-related stigma has been conceptualized as a problem particular to the highest income, industrialized, historically thin-valorizing societies like the US, Australasia, and Western Europe. Main body: There is limited but highly suggestive evidence that obesity stigma is an emergent phenomenon that affects populations across the global south. Emergent evidence includes: implicit and explicit measures showing very high levels of weight stigma in middle and low-income countries, complex ethnographic evidence of widespread anti-fat beliefs even where fat-positivity endures, the globalization of new forms of "fat talk," and evidence of the emotional and material damage of weight-related rejection or mistreatment even where severe undernutrition is still a major challenge. Conclusion: Recognizing weight stigma as a global health problem has significant implications for how public health conceives and implements appropriate responses to the growing "obesity epidemic" in middle and lower income settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20
JournalGlobalization and Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 13 2018


  • Global health
  • Globalization
  • Obesity
  • Overweight
  • Public health interventions
  • Stigma
  • Weight

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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