Gaps in research on men’s experience with weight stigma

A new study into weight stigma has found that men have been overlooked by researchers when examining their experiences of obesity.

Compiled by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut, the research showed that 40% of men experienced weight stigma, but little was understood about how this impacted their health and wellbeing, compared to the studies that have been done with women on the same issue.

Connecticut study lead Mary Himmelstein pointed out that it was more common for weight loss conversations and poor body image to be discussed among women.

“Men are frequently overlooked, but that does not necessarily mean that men are less affected by weight stigma or less likely to internalise negative biases," she said.

The research was drawn from a national survey of 1249 men and an additional 504 from an online data collection service. They responded to questions about their experiences of weight-based stigma and how much they internalised their experience, as well as an overall portrait of their psychological wellbeing and health behaviours.

The study found that men who experienced and internalised weight stigma had more depressive symptoms and were more likely to engage in binge eating.

"Our study shows that weight stigma is not a gendered issue. It can affect men's health in the same damaging ways in which we already know that it harms women's health, and neglecting these issues in men, either in research or clinical practice, may put them at a serious disadvantage in treatment," said Himmelstein.

"Opportunities for supportive interventions should be available for men, women, and non-binary individuals alike to help them cope with weight stigma in less harmful ways."

She said health care providers should ask men about weight stigma to help identify those vulnerable to depression and secondary behavioural outcomes, such as binge eating.

The study was published in the Obesity Research Journal on 31 July.


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