The Association Between Perceived Discrimination and Obesity in a Population-Based Multiracial and Multiethnic Adult Sample

This study examines whether perceived chronic discrimination is related to excess body fat accumulation in a random, multi-ethnic, population-based sample of U.S. adults. Multivariate multinomial logistic regression and logistic regression analyses were used to examine the relationship between interpersonal experiences of perceived chronic discrimination and body mass index and high-risk waist circumference. Consistent with other studies, the analyses showed that perceived unfair treatment was associated with increased abdominal obesity. Compared with Irish, Jewish, Polish and Italian Whites who did not experience perceived chronic discrimination, Irish, Jewish, Polish, and Italian Whites who perceived chronic discrimination were two to six times more likely to have a high-risk waist circumference. No significant relationship between perceived discrimination and the obesity measures was found among the other Whites, Blacks, or Hispanics.

These findings are not completely unsupported. White ethnic groups including Polish, Italians, Jews, and Irish have historically been discriminated against in the United States, and other recent research suggests that they experience higher levels of perceived discrimination than do other Whites and that these experiences adversely affect their health.