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Weight Discrimination Worse Than Racism, Sexism

Update Date: May 08, 2014 12:07 AM EDT
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Having people perceive you as overweight or older may be worse than having them look down on your race or gender.
"Our previous research showed that perceived discrimination based on body weight was associated with risk of obesity. We wanted to see whether this association extended to other health indicators and types of discrimination," lead author Angelina Sutin, assistant professor of behavioral sciences and social medicine from the Florida State University College of Medicine. "What we found was unexpected and striking."
The study revealed that older adults who believed in weight discrimination and discrimination based on age or on a physical disability or other aspect of appearance had significantly lower physical and emotional health and greater slips in health compared to those who did not report experiencing such discrimination.
However, discrimination based on race, sex, ancestry and sexual orientation are not linked to declines in physical and emotional health for the older adults.
The latest findings involved data from more than 6,000 adults who participated in the Health and Retirement Study, a study of Americans ages 50 and older and their partners. Participants indicated their physical, emotional and cognitive health in 2006 and 2010 and reported on their personal experiences with discrimination.
"We know how harmful discrimination based race and sex can be, so we were surprised that perceived discrimination based on more malleable characteristics like age and weight had a more pervasive effect on health than discrimination based on these more fixed characteristics," Sutin said.
"We know how harmful discrimination based race and sex can be, so we were surprised that perceived discrimination based on more malleable characteristics like age and weight had a more pervasive effect on health than discrimination based on these more fixed characteristics," she concluded.
The findings were published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

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