Posted on October 28, 2008

Feeling Persecuted Can Make You Fat—But Only If You’re White, Say Scientists

John Garth, Daily Mail (London), October 25, 2008

White people who are victims of discrimination are also more likely to be overweight, a study has found.

Researchers say they may become overweight as a direct result of the sense of being ill-treated by others.

The study of more than 3,000 adults showed that there was no similar correlation between feeling persecuted and being overweight among black people.

Participants in the American study—all from around Chicago—were weighed and interviewed about their health habits and social status.

They were also asked about perceived discrimination—including how often they believed they had been treated disrespectfully, received poorer service than other people or felt threatened or harassed.

‘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 2 to 6 times more likely to have a high-risk waist circumference,’ the researchers, from Purdue University, Indiana, told , the American Journal of Public Health.

White ethnic-minority groups may experience worse discrimination than other whites, and this experience ‘may adversely affect their health’, the study adds.

In contrast, there was no clear evidence that obesity in black and Hispanic adults was related to discrimination.

The researchers speculate that this may be because of expectations; black and Hispanic people in the U.S. are more likely than whites to be accustomed to discrimination and may find it easier to dismiss.