Social and Psychological Effects of Obesity
It’s well known that obesity increases your risk of developing certain health problems, and it can impact emotional health as well. “While there are physical health risks associated with obesity, the emotional consequences may be the most painful for people with eating disorders and weight problems, ” says Tamara Pryor, PhD, a clinical psychologist and clinical director of the Eating Disorder Center of Denver.
A recent Yale University study found that obesity discrimination in the United States has increased 66 percent over the past decade. “Discrimination against obese people is increasing at an alarming rate and can have serious effects on emotional health, ” says Pryor.
Obese employees are often viewed as lazy, less competent, sloppy, and lacking in self-discipline by co-workers and supervisors. In schools and colleges, obese students face harassment, rejection from peers, and biased attitudes from teachers. Negative attitudes about overweight patients have also been reported by doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals, says Pryor.
Emotional Obesity Effects: The Stigma of Obesity
Society places immense pressure on people to look good, stay thin, and fit into a certain size. This can stigmatize people who don’t fit such descriptions. “The stigma of obesity can range from Simon Cowell’s fat jokes on American Idol to airlines making fat passengers pay for an extra seat to nasty comments that are made as a fat person passes by on the street, ” says Frances White, co-chair of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA). This stigmatization can impact obese people’s social well-being and emotional health.
Emotional Obesity Effects: Health Risks
Feelings of shame, rejection, low self-esteem, and depression are common in obese adults and even overweight children. “A large percentage of overweight kids, particularly girls, have been found to be clinically depressed as a result of their weight problems, ” says Pryor. Other research shows that women reporting a history of weight-based teasing as children have more depression than other adult females.