A Meta-Analysis of Weight Stigma and Health Behaviors

Xun Zhu, Rachel A. Smith, Emily Buteau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Public health campaigns that explicitly or implicitly stigmatize higher-weight individuals are proliferating.Underlying this trend is an assumption that weight stigma can promote healthier behavioral change.Substantial research comprising empirical studies, narrative reviews, and meta-analyses has linked weightstigma to poorer psychological and physical health. While many studies have investigated how weightstigma affected health behaviors such as dieting and exercise, additional work is needed to understand thedirection and size of the relationship. Through a meta-analysis of 54 studies including over 40,000participants from 11 countries, we sought to present a precise estimate of the relationship between weightstigma and health behaviors and test potential moderators of the relationship. The results showed that weightstigma was positively related to unhealthy behaviors and negatively related to healthy behaviors. Theserelationships were consistent across stigma type (self-stigma vs. stigmatization), the focus of healthbehaviors (dietary behaviors vs. physical activities), and sample characteristics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalStigma and Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 American Psychological Association


  • Health promotion
  • Meta-analysis
  • Obesity
  • Stigma
  • Weight

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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