Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Racial, ethnic stereotypes may contribute to obesity among minorities

Date:
August 25, 2014
Source:
Rutgers University
Summary:
For members of minority groups, maintaining a healthy weight can be especially difficult, says an experimental social psychologist who reports that it is common for minorities in the United States to endure negative stereotypes and pervasive messages that suggest those groups are inferior, and that these attitudes can prevent people from doing what is needed to care for their health.

Many Americans need extraordinary willpower to avoid becoming obese -- or to slim down if they already weigh too much. For members of minority groups, maintaining a healthy weight can be that much harder according to new research led by Luis Rivera, an experimental social psychologist at Rutgers University-Newark.

Related Articles


Rivera says it is common for minorities in the United States to endure negative stereotypes, pervasive messages that suggest those groups are inferior, and that these attitudes can prevent people from doing what is needed to care for their health.

"When you are exposed to negative stereotypes, you may gravitate more toward unhealthy foods as opposed to healthy foods," explains Rivera, whose study appears in this summer's edition of the Journal of Social Issues, of which he also was a co-editor. "You may have a less positive attitude toward watching your carbs or cutting back on fast food, and toward working out and exercising."

Rivera says the resulting difference in motivation may help explain -- at least in part -- higher rates of obesity in the United States among members of minority groups than among whites.

Rivera found that Latinos he studied were significantly more likely than whites to agree that negative stereotypes commonly used to describe Hispanics applied to them. The result suggested to Rivera that "somewhere in their heads they are making the connection that the stereotype is Latino, I am Latino, and therefore I am the stereotype."

Hispanics in the study who strongly self-stereotyped were more than three times as likely to be overweight or obese as those who did not. The data suggest that self-stereotypes diminish self-esteem -- and therefore the motivation that might have helped them follow a healthier lifestyle.

Rivera says demeaning stereotypes come from many sources. For instance, he says, television and other mass media frequently carry harmful messages, such as Latinos are lazy or Latinos are unintelligent. "And then," he adds, "there are more subtle ways in conversations and interactions with others. Although people don't say explicitly 'you are A, you are B,' there are ways in which those messages are communicated. It could be teachers. It could be your parents. It could be your friends."

Rivera says there even is evidence that Latinos born in this country tend to have a poorer self-image than many recent Hispanic immigrants -- suggesting that stereotypes ingrained in U.S. culture are especially potent -- and that the design of his research reinforces that view.

Aside from ethnicity, the people Rivera studied were nearly identical. They lived in the same neighborhood, had comparable incomes and had similar access to healthy foods, and he asked them the same questions -- additional evidence that if the whites and the Latinos saw themselves differently, society's prejudice against Latinos was the underlying reason.

So how does a person discouraged by stereotypes overcome them? According to Rivera, research suggests that exposure to positive racial and ethnic role models might help. Something else worth trying, he says, could be designing approaches to weight loss that emphasize the person's positive qualities -- as a way to counteract the corrosive effects of prejudice.

"It has been shown that when you remind people what they're good at, it works to immunize them from the effect of stereotypes," Rivera says. "It releases their anxieties and allows them to focus on the task before them and perform to their ability."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Rutgers University. The original article was written by Rob Forman. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Luis M. Rivera, Stefanie M. Paredez. Stereotypes Can “Get Under the Skin”: Testing a Self-Stereotyping and Psychological Resource Model of Overweight and Obesity. Journal of Social Issues, 2014; 70 (2): 226 DOI: 10.1111/josi.12057

Cite This Page:

Rutgers University. "Racial, ethnic stereotypes may contribute to obesity among minorities." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 August 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140825123524.htm>.
Rutgers University. (2014, August 25). Racial, ethnic stereotypes may contribute to obesity among minorities. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140825123524.htm
Rutgers University. "Racial, ethnic stereotypes may contribute to obesity among minorities." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140825123524.htm (accessed March 27, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, March 27, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

AAA: Distracted Driving a Serious Teen Problem

AAA: Distracted Driving a Serious Teen Problem

AP (Mar. 25, 2015) While distracted driving is not a new problem for teens, new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says it&apos;s much more serious than previously thought. (March 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smartphone Use Changing Our Brain and Thumb Interaction, Say Researchers

Smartphone Use Changing Our Brain and Thumb Interaction, Say Researchers

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 25, 2015) European researchers say our smartphone use offers scientists an ideal testing ground for human brain plasticity. Dr Ako Ghosh&apos;s team discovered that the brains and thumbs of smartphone users interact differently from those who use old-fashioned handsets. Jim Drury went to meet him. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Many Don't Know They Have Alzheimer's, But Their Doctors Do

Many Don't Know They Have Alzheimer's, But Their Doctors Do

Newsy (Mar. 24, 2015) According to a new study by the Alzheimer&apos;s Association, more than half of those who have the degenerative brain disease aren&apos;t told by their doctors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
A Quick 45-Minute Nap Can Improve Your Memory

A Quick 45-Minute Nap Can Improve Your Memory

Newsy (Mar. 23, 2015) Researchers found those who napped for 45 minutes to an hour before being tested on information recalled it five times better than those who didn&apos;t. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins