Christine Emmer, Michael Bosnjak, Jutta Mata
The association between weight stigma and mental health: a meta-analysis

Obesity Reviews, 2020: 21, issue 1, (e-only: e12935)
ISSN: 1467-789X (online)

In recent years, there has been considerable research on the relation between weight stigma and mental health, but no quantitative synthesis of the empirical evidence is available to date. This meta‐analysis (105 studies, 59 172 participants, and 497 effect sizes) fills this gap by quantifying the association between weight stigma and mental health. Age, gender, and factors presumed to exert a protective role (i.e., adaptive coping strategies and perceived social support) were tested as potential moderators. The three‐level meta‐analytic model estimated under a random effects assumption revealed a medium to large negative association between weight stigma and mental health (r = −0.35). The overall association remained significant when controlling for publication year, education, and body weight. There was substantial heterogeneity in effect sizes between studies (I2 = 43%) and within studies (I2 = 56%). Surprisingly, all moderator hypotheses had to be rejected. Body weight was a significant moderator, indicating a stronger association between weight stigma and diminished mental health with increasing body mass index. Future research might focus on explaining the heterogeneity of findings and on testing causality as well as potential underlying mechanisms.