Weight Bias in Educational Settings: a Systematic Review

  • Sarah NutterEmail author
  • Alana Ireland
  • Angela S. Alberga
  • Isabel Brun
  • Danielle Lefebvre
  • K. Alix Hayden
  • Shelly Russell-Mayhew
The Obesity Epidemic: Causes and Consequences (A Cameron and K Backholer, Section Editors)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on The Obesity Epidemic: Causes and Consequences



To conduct a systematic literature review of empirical peer-reviewed published studies on the prevalence of weight bias among students, pre-service, and in-service teachers and its impact on the educational experiences and health of students from kindergarten to postsecondary settings.


Keywords were searched on three main concepts, (i) weight bias/stigma, (ii) obesity/overweight, and (iii) education, within eight databases. Our search yielded 8323 individual records, of which 45 studies satisfied our inclusion criteria.


Most studies were conducted in K-12 school settings (n = 41), were quantitative in design (n = 37), and used student samples (n = 18). Weight bias is prevalent in educational settings, among peers at school as well as pre-service and in-service teachers, and negatively impacts students’ health and educational experiences.


These results highlighted the impact of weight bias in creating inequity for students with obesity as well as several underexamined areas, such as weight bias in postsecondary settings and attitudes among teachers and pre-service teachers. Innovative strategies to address weight bias in educational settings are needed.


Weight bias Education Obesity Wellness Stigma Discrimination 



SN is currently funded by a Doctoral Research Award from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council at the University of Calgary. ASA acknowledges support from her Chercheur Boursier Junior 1 Award (no. 35277) from les Fonds de Recherche du Québec- Santé at Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, as well as Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship Award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Sarah Nutter, Alana Ireland, Angela S. Alberga, Isabel Brun, Danielle Lefebvre, K. Alix Hayden, and Shelly Russell-Mayhew declare they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah Nutter
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alana Ireland
    • 1
  • Angela S. Alberga
    • 2
  • Isabel Brun
    • 1
  • Danielle Lefebvre
    • 1
  • K. Alix Hayden
    • 3
  • Shelly Russell-Mayhew
    • 1
  1. 1.Werklund School of EducationUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.Department of Health, Kinesiology, and Applied PhysiologyConcordia UniversityMontrealCanada
  3. 3.Libraries and Cultural ResourcesUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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