Weight Stigma and Its Associations with Health Behaviors Among Older Adults Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/f4752k485

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  • Having excess weight carries a negative social stigma in the U.S. Previous research has shown that experiencing stigma has negative physical and mental health consequences. Few studies have examined how experiencing weight stigma might act as a barrier to engaging in healthy behaviors among older adults. The purpose of this study was to examine weight discrimination and weight-based stereotype threat as mechanisms of weight stigma among older adults. Using data from the 2010 and 2012 waves of the Health and Retirement Study, this study investigated weight discrimination and weight-based stereotype threat and their possible associations with specific health behaviors, namely the use of clinical preventive services and level of physical activity. This study also examined factors associated with experiencing weight-based stereotype threat in a medical setting among older adults. Results indicated that experiences of weight discrimination were negatively associated with reporting vigorous and moderate physical activity, positively associated with receiving an influenza vaccination, and not associated with receiving breast or cervical cancer screenings. Results also indicated that weight discrimination mediated 13% of the relationship between body mass index and vigorous physical activity. In addition, 9% of the effect of BMI on moderate physical activity was mediated by weight discrimination. Having a higher BMI and previous experiences of weight discrimination were significantly associated with reporting weight-based stereotype threat in the medical setting. Weight-based stereotype threat was not associated with the use of clinical preventive services and level of physical activity, although the sample size lacked sufficient power to detect a small effect size in these analyses. This study provides evidence that older adults experience weight discrimination and weight-based stereotype threat. Efforts to increase physical activity among older adults should address weight discrimination as a possible barrier. Further research on the mechanisms of weight stigma among older adults and their effects is warranted.
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