October 24, 2008

Weight Discrimination More Common Among White Adults

A new study found that obese white adults are more likely than their thinner peers to say they've been discriminated against in their daily lives.

The study looked at more than 3,000 U.S. adults and discovered that obese white adults were up to twice as likely to report some form of discrimination as normal-weight whites were.

Weight was not, however, clearly related to feelings of discrimination among black and Hispanic adults.

Such findings add to evidence that some obese adults experience unfair treatment because of their weight. Weight discrimination may also be more common, or more acutely perceived, among white adults.

Dr. Haslyn Hunte of Purdue University in Indiana and colleagues analyzed data on 3,025 adults who had taken part in a Chicago-area health study.

For the study, participants were weighed and interviewed about their health habits and demographics. They were also questioned regarding perceived discrimination -- including how often they believed they'd been treated disrespectfully, received poorer service than other people or felt threatened or harassed.

The researchers found that overall, one-quarter of study participants said they'd been discriminated against based on race or ethnicity, while 40 percent believed they'd been treated unfairly based on other reasons.

The odds of perceiving discrimination rose along with weight among white adults. In contrast, there was no clear evidence that weight was related to perceived bias among black and Hispanic adults.

This may be because of minorities' greater acceptance of heavier body types, Hunte's team speculated.

But the researchers added that it could also have to do with expectations, as African- and Hispanic Americans are more likely to expect bias and may have an easier time putting weight discrimination aside.

Therefore, bias may be less expected and more difficult to deal with among whites.

The team also noticed that certain white ethnic groups were particularly likely to perceive weight bias -- Jewish, Irish, Polish and Italian adults.

According to the researchers, the reasons for this are not clear, but the finding could reflect the fact that these groups, compared with other whites, have historically been subject to more discrimination.


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