Mediated effects of eating disturbances in the association of perceived weight stigma and emotional distress
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This study aimed to examine the relationships between perceived weight stigma, eating disturbances, and emotional distress across individuals with different self-perceived weight status.
University students from Hong Kong (n = 400) and Taiwan (n = 307) participated in this study and completed several questionnaires: Perceived Weight Stigma questionnaire; Three-factor Eating Questionnaire; Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale. Each participant self-reported their height, weight, and self-perceived weight status.
After controlling for demographics, perceived weight stigma was associated with eating disturbances (β = 0.223, p < 0.001), depression (β = 0.143, p < 0.001), and anxiety (β = 0.193, p < 0.001); and eating disturbances was associated with depression (β = 0.147, p < 0.001) and anxiety (β = 0.300, p < 0.001) in the whole sample. Additionally, eating disturbances mediated the association between perceived weight stigma and emotional distress. Similar findings were shown in the subsamples who perceived themselves as higher weight or normal weight and in the male and female subsamples. However, in the subsamples who perceived themselves as lower weight, only the links between eating disturbances and emotional distress were significant.
Perceived weight stigma was associated with eating disturbances and emotional distress in young adults with both higher and normal weight. Eating disturbances were associated with emotional distress regardless of participants’ weight status.
Level of evidence
Level V, cross-sectional descriptive study.
KeywordsAsian Anxiety Depression Eating behaviors Weight bias
This research was supported in part by (received funding from) the startup fund in the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong. The authors have no financial relationships relevant to this article to disclose.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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