Research

Weight Bias & Stigma

People who have a higher body weight are vulnerable to stereotypes, bias, bullying, and discrimination in our society. Known as “weight bias” or “weight stigma,” these experiences occur for both children and adults in many aspects of daily life. People face weight discrimination in the workplace, biased attitudes from health care professionals, negative stereotypes in the media, barriers in education, and weight stigma in interpersonal relationships. These stigmatizing experiences are harmful, leading to both immediate and long-term consequences for emotional and physical health, reducing quality of life.

The Rudd Center aims to address weight bias and discrimination through research, education, and advocacy. We’re working to draw attention to weight bias and develop strategies to address this societal problem, by educating and engaging young people, families, teachers, employers, health care professionals, and policymakers.

To effectively address weight bias, efforts are needed in multiple settings throughout our society. Below are informational resources that provide education about weight and strategies to address this problem.

Media Gallery

The way that persons with obesity are portrayed by the media profoundly shapes the public's understanding and attitudes about persons of higher weight. Television, movies, and social media often reinforce negative attitudes about body weight and perpetuate weight bias throughout our society. For example, characters with larger bodies depicted in popular TV shows and movies are often negatively stereotyped (e.g., portrayed as greedy, sloppy, or unpopular) and are seen in stereotypical roles (e.g., overeating unhealthy foods and being lazy).

There are important opportunities for the media to play a role in efforts to help reduce societal prejudice towards individuals affected by obesity. The Rudd Center has created resources to be used by media professionals, educators, and health professionals for the purpose of improving media content related to obesity and improving respectful portrayals of people regardless of their body size.
Access the Gallery

Media Guidelines

The media is an important and influential source of information about obesity. The way that obesity, weight-loss and weight maintenance are portrayed, described, and framed by the media profoundly shapes the public's understanding and attitudes toward these important health issues and the individuals affect by them.

As a result, the Rudd Center, in partnership with the Obesity Society and Obesity Action Coalition, have created guidelines for media portrayals of individuals affected by obesity.
Access the Guidelines

Recent Research

Links between obesity and complications of COVID-19 have received increasing attention throughout the pandemic. But a different aspect of body weight – the social stigma that people face because of their weight - may also have harmful implications for people’s health during the pandemic. New research from the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity and the University of Minnesota shows that young adults who experienced weight stigma before the pandemic have higher levels of depressive symptoms, stress, eating as a coping strategy, and are more likely to binge-eat during COVID-19 compared to those who haven’t experienced weight stigma.

Read the Study