Annals of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 51, Issue 1, pp 94–104 | Cite as

Perceived Weight Discrimination and 10-Year Risk of Allostatic Load Among US Adults

Original Article



Discrimination promotes multisystem physiological dysregulation termed allostatic load, which predicts morbidity and mortality. It remains unclear whether weight-related discrimination influences allostatic load.


The aim of this study was to prospectively examine 10-year associations between weight discrimination, allostatic load, and its components among adults 25–75 years in the Midlife Development in the US Biomarker Substudy.


Participants with information on weight discrimination were analyzed (n=986). At both timepoints, participants self-reported the frequency of perceived weight discrimination across nine scenarios as “never/rarely” (scored as 0), “sometimes” (1), or “often” (2). The two scores were averaged and then dichotomized as “experienced” versus “not experienced” discrimination. High allostatic load was defined as having ≥3 out of 7 dysregulated systems (cardiovascular, sympathetic/parasympathetic nervous systems, hypothalamic pituitary axis, inflammatory, lipid/metabolic, and glucose metabolism), which collectively included 24 biomarkers. Relative risks (RR) were estimated from multivariate models adjusted for sociodemographic and health characteristics, other forms of discrimination, and BMI.


Over 41% of the sample had obesity, and 6% reported weight discrimination at follow-up. In multivariable-adjusted analyses, individuals who experienced (versus did not experience) weight discrimination had twice the risk of high allostatic load (RR, 2.07; 95 % CI, 1.21; 3.55 for baseline discrimination; 2.16, 95 % CI, 1.39; 3.36 for long-term discrimination). Weight discrimination was associated with lipid/metabolic dysregulation (1.56; 95 % CI 1.02, 2.40), glucose metabolism (1.99; 95 % CI 1.34, 2.95), and inflammation (1.76; 95 % CI 1.22, 2.54), but no other systems.


Perceived weight discrimination doubles the 10-year risk of high allostatic load. Eliminating weight stigma may reduce physiological dysregulation, improving obesity-related morbidity and mortality.


Obesity stigma Weight discrimination Allostatic load Allostasis Dysregulation Weight stigma 



This work was supported by the NHLBI (grant numbers HL49086, HL60692). Funding was also provided by a Mentored Career Development Award to Promote Faculty Diversity in Biomedical Research from the NHLBI (J.M., grant number K01-HL120951), and an NIH Ruth L Kirschstein Postdoctoral Fellowship (M.V., grant number 5 T32 DK 7703-19). NIH had no role in the design, analysis, or writing of this article.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Authors’ Statement of Conflict of Interest and Adherence to Ethical Standards Authors

Maya Vadiveloo and Josiemer Mattei declare that they have no conflict of interest. All procedures, including the informed consent process, were conducted in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000.

Supplementary material

12160_2016_9831_MOESM1_ESM.docx (15 kb)
Supplemental Table 1 (DOCX 15 kb)


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Copyright information

© The Society of Behavioral Medicine 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Nutrition and Food SciencesUniversity of Rhode IslandKingstonUSA
  2. 2.Department of NutritionHarvard T. H. Chan School of Public HealthBostonUSA

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