Weight-related discrimination has long-term effects on people. Researchers found that people judged or teased because of their weight tend to remain the same rather than miraculously developing an absolute will to turnover a new leaf.
A new study proved that weight discrimination has a direct effect on one's mortality. Researchers from the Florida State University (FSU) College of Medicine in the United States analyzed various studies covering over 18,000 people. The team focused on reports of weight discrimination across the gathered data.
The researchers gathered data from two ongoing studies. The first batch came from the University of Michigan's Health and Retirement Study (HRS), which started in 1992 and was supported by the National Institute on Aging (NIA). This batch involved over 13,000 older adults with an average age of 68 during the time of the analysis.
The second batch belonged to the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study which began in 1995. Also supported by the NIA, the MIDUS study was conducted by the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Successful Midlife Development and covered approximately 5,000 adults with an average age of 48.
The team found that people who reported being judged or discriminated because of their weight are 60 percent more likely to die during the follow-up period. The cause of death does not only include the health risks of obesity but also the effects of discrimination on these people.
"Independent of what their BMI (body mass index) actually is, weight discrimination is associated with increased risk of mortality," said Angelina Sutin from the FSU College of Medicine. Sutin is an assistant professor of social medicine and behavioral sciences and one of the study's main researchers.
"To our knowledge, this is the first time that this has been shown," added Antonio Terracciano, an associate professor in the college's Department of Geriatrics. Terracciano worked with Sutin for the study.
Sutin and Terracciano cross-checked other factors that could have led to the deaths but the weight discrimination factor remained consistent in both groups.
The finding is the direct opposite of the popular belief that you can inspire an overweight person to lose weight using a form of tough love — outright teasing and even unintended discrimination. Apart from the psychological damage, it actually encourages further weight gain and early death.
The research team published their study in the Psychological Science on Sept. 29, 2015.