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Stigma and the perpetuation of obesity


  • Brewis, Alexandra A.


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.

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  • Brewis, Alexandra A., 2014. "Stigma and the perpetuation of obesity," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 152-158.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:118:y:2014:i:c:p:152-158
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.08.003

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Claire E. Altman & Jennifer Van Hook & Jonathan Gonzalez, 2017. "Becoming Overweight without Gaining a Pound: Weight Evaluations and the Social Integration of Mexicans in the United States," International Migration Review, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(1), pages 3-36, March.
    2. Davis, Jenny L. & Goar, Carla & Manago, Bianca & Reidinger, Bobbi, 2018. "Distribution and disavowal: Managing the parental stigma of Children's weight and weight loss," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 219(C), pages 61-69.
    3. Panter-Brick, Catherine & Eggerman, Mark, 2018. "The field of medical anthropology in Social Science & Medicine," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 196(C), pages 233-239.
    4. Hackman, Joseph & Maupin, Jonathan & Brewis, Alexandra A., 2016. "Weight-related stigma is a significant psychosocial stressor in developing countries: Evidence from Guatemala," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 161(C), pages 55-60.
    5. Wilson, Marisa & McLennan, Amy, 2019. "A comparative ethnography of nutrition interventions: Structural violence and the industrialisation of agrifood systems in the Caribbean and the Pacific," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 228(C), pages 172-180.

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    Obesity; Stigma; Weight gain; Gender; Stress; Embodiment;


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