Stigma and the perpetuation of obesity

Alexandra Slade

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

191 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)152-158
Number of pages7
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue numberC
StatePublished - 2014


  • Embodiment
  • Gender
  • Obesity
  • Stigma
  • Stress
  • Weight gain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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