Original Article | Published:

Behavior and Psychology

Coping with perceived weight discrimination: testing a theoretical model for examining the relationship between perceived weight discrimination and depressive symptoms in a representative sample of individuals with obesity

International Journal of Obesity volume 40, pages 19151921 (2016) | Download Citation

Abstract

Background:

The association between obesity and perceived weight discrimination has been investigated in several studies. Although there is evidence that perceived weight discrimination is associated with negative outcomes on psychological well-being, there is a lack of research examining possible buffering effects of coping strategies in dealing with experiences of weight discrimination. The present study aims to fill that gap. We examined the relationship between perceived weight discrimination and depressive symptoms and tested whether problem-solving strategies and/or avoidant coping strategies mediated this effect.

Methods:

Using structural equation modeling, we analyzed representative cross-sectional data of n=484 German-speaking individuals with obesity (BMI30 kg m−2), aged 18 years and older.

Results:

Results revealed a direct effect of perceived weight discrimination on depressive symptoms. Further, the data supported a mediational linkage for avoidant coping strategies, not for problem-solving strategies. Higher scores of perceived weight discrimination experiences were associated with both coping strategies, but only avoidant coping strategies were positively linked to more symptoms of depression.

Conclusions:

Perceived weight discrimination was associated with increased depressive symptoms both directly and indirectly through situational coping strategies. Avoidant coping has the potential to exacerbate depressive symptoms, whereas problem-solving strategies were ineffective in dealing with experiences of weight discrimination. We emphasize the importance of coping strategies in dealing with experiences of weight discrimination and the need to distinguish between using a strategy and benefiting from it without detriment.

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Acknowledgements

We thank FUCE Jung (Institute of Social Medicine, Occupational Health and Public Health (ISAP), University of Leipzig, Germany; Integrated Research and Treatment Center AdiposityDiseases (IFB), University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany; Competence Cluster for Nutrition and Cardiovascular Health (nutriCARD), Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Germany) for translating the LD-scale from English to German language. This work was supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Germany, FKZ: 01EO1501.

Author contributions

CS, SRH and JSP conceptualized the study design. JSP performed the statistical analyses. AP supervised the statistical analyses. JSP drafted the manuscript. CS, AP and SRH critically revised the manuscript, read and approved the final manuscript.

Author information

Author notes

    • S G Riedel-Heller
    •  & C Luck-Sikorski

    Shared last authorship

Affiliations

  1. Leipzig University Medical Center, IFB AdiposityDiseases, Leipzig, Germany

    • J Spahlholz
    •  & C Luck-Sikorski
  2. Institute of Social Medicine, Occupational Health and Public Health (ISAP), Leipzig University, Leipzig, Germany

    • J Spahlholz
    • , A Pabst
    • , S G Riedel-Heller
    •  & C Luck-Sikorski
  3. SRH University of Applied Health Sciences, Gera, Germany

    • C Luck-Sikorski

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Competing interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to J Spahlholz.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2016.164

Supplementary Information accompanies this paper on International Journal of Obesity website (http://www.nature.com/ijo)