Internalized weight bias and cortisol reactivity to social stress

  • F. U. JungEmail author
  • Y. J. Bae
  • J. Kratzsch
  • S. G. Riedel-Heller
  • C. Luck-Sikorski


Weight-associated stigmatization and discrimination may induce chronic stress in individuals with obesity. As a consequence, this stressor may cause an imbalance of HPA stress axis leading to increased eating behavior, and ultimately, weight gain. However, the direct link between internalized weight bias and stress response to acute stressors via cortisol secretion has not been investigated so far. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate the interaction between internalized weight stigma as a stressor and cortisol reactivity in an acute psychosocial stress situation induced by the Trier Socials Stress Test for groups (TSST-G). Participants with BMI >30 kg/m2 (n = 79) were included in the study. Results reveal that while individuals with low internalized stigma reacted as predicted with an increase in cortisol secretion to acute psychosocial stress, individuals with medium or high internalized stigma did not show a typical cortisol response. However, these findings depend on the several factors, for instance on gender. In sum, acute stress in individuals with internalized weight bias seems to blunt HPA axis reactions to acute psychosocial stress. The study contributes to the understanding of the psychological and endocrinological consequences of internalized weight bias and underlines the importance of interventions to reduce stigmatization.


Cortisol Stigma Obesity Trier socials stress test Stress 



This work was supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Germany, FKZ: 01EO1501.


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© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Social Medicine, Occupational Health and Public Health (ISAP), Medical FacultyUniversity of LeipzigLeipzigGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Laboratory Medicine, Clinical Chemistry and Molecular DiagnosticsUniversity of LeipzigLeipzigGermany
  3. 3.Integrated Research and Treatment Center (IFB) Adiposity DiseasesUniversity Hospital LeipzigLeipzigGermany
  4. 4.SRH University of Applied Health SciencesGeraGermany

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