Obesity, chronic job discrimination and social support

Document Type


Publication Date


Originally Published In

Management Research Review



The purpose of this paper is to investigate the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and chronic job discrimination. Additionally, the authors explore the contribution of various forms of social support to that relationship.


The data for this study were obtained from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the USA (MIDUS). Only those who reported being employed participated in the study (n = 1,150). The variables of interest included BMI, supervisor support, coworker support, family support, friend support, religious support and chronic job discrimination. Analysis included correlations, ANOVA’s and hierarchical linear regression.


BMI was positively associated with chronic job discrimination. Respondents in the obese and morbidly obese categories reported higher job discrimination compared to normal weight respondents. Family support, supervisor support and coworker support were associated with less reported chronic job discrimination.

Practical implications

Organizational leaders should acknowledge that obesity is associated with discrimination. Organizations should thus create anti-discrimination policies covering weight-based discrimination, conduct sensitivity training for all employees and train and coach supervisors on effective ways of offering support to employees.


This study contributes to the understanding of the role various forms of social support can play in reducing perceptions of chronic job discrimination. The paper is unique in that it considers several sources from which people draw support in managing for stressors.