Many may not admit it but the reality is that many people face weight discrimination on a regular basis and this could be adversely affecting their overall quality of life.
According to new research by UCL and funded by Cancer Research UK, weight discrimination is linked to significantly lower quality of life, and accounts for approximately 40% of the negative psychological effects associated with obesity.
A report published in Medicalxpress found that the research showed that of the more than 5,000 adults assessed in the study, those who reported feeling discriminated against on the basis of their had a 70% increase in symptoms of depression, a 14% drop in quality of life and 12% lower life satisfaction in comparison to those who did not perceive weight discrimination.
When it came to assessing what exactly weight discrimination was, those in the study were asked to relate any experiences that they may have on a daily basis that they believe was down to their weight.
The study found examples of discrimination included being treated disrespectfully, receiving poor service in shops, and being harassed. Psychological wellbeing was assessed with standard measures of quality of life, life satisfaction and symptoms of depression, according to the report by Medicalxpress.
The data used in the research was taken from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), which looked at adults over the age of 50.
When the researcher looked into what the data showed they found a link between obesity and poorer psychological wellbeing which could in any part be explained by weight-related discrimination.
“In the United Kingdom, the Equality Act 2010 legally protects individuals from discrimination on the basis of age, sex, race, disability, religion or beliefs, sexual orientation, marital status, pregnancy, or gender reassignment; making it clear that discriminatory behaviour of this nature is not to be accepted,” says lead author Dr Sarah Jackson (UCL Epidemiology & Public Health).
“However, our results indicate that discriminatory experiences contribute to poorer psychological wellbeing in individuals with obesity, but there are currently no laws prohibiting weight discrimination. This might send the message to people that weight discrimination is socially acceptable.”
Senior author Professor Jane Wardle, director of the Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Centre at UCL, says: “Combined with our previous work showing that weight discrimination does not encourage weight loss, we can see that weight discrimination is part of the obesity problem and not the solution. Weight bias has been documented not only among the general public but also among health professionals; and many obese patients report being treated disrespectfully by doctors because of their weight. Everyone, including doctors, should stop blaming and shaming people for their weight, and offer support, and where appropriate, treatment.”