Mediated effects of eating disturbances in the association of perceived weight stigma and emotional distress

Abstract

Purpose

This study aimed to examine the relationships between perceived weight stigma, eating disturbances, and emotional distress across individuals with different self-perceived weight status.

Methods

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.

Results

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.

Conclusion

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.

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Data availability

The datasets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Funding

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.

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Correspondence to Chung-Ying Lin.

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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.

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Lin, C., Strong, C., Latner, J.D. et al. Mediated effects of eating disturbances in the association of perceived weight stigma and emotional distress. Eat Weight Disord 25, 509–518 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40519-019-00641-8

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Keywords

  • Asian
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Eating behaviors
  • Weight bias