Gender Differences between Body Weight and Psychological Well-Being during Young Adulthood: A Brief Report

  • Stacy A. Ogbeide School of Professional Psychology Forest Institute
  • Christopher A. Neumann School of Professional Psychology Forest Institute
  • Brian E. Sandoval School of Professional Psychology Forest Institute
  • C. Diane Rudebock Department of Kinesiology and Health Studies, University of Central Oklahoma


This study investigated the relationship between gender, body weight and psychological well-being among a sample of college students. Results indicated that compared to participants in the “normal” weight range, participants classified as “overweight/obese” reported lower levels of life satisfaction. Further analyses found that among males, but not females, increases in body mass index (BMI) were associated with lower levels of life satisfaction and psychological well-being. Results are discussed in relation to stigma theory and gender-specific cultural norms regarding weight.


Allison, D. B., Fontaine, K. R., Manson, J. F., Stevens, J., & VanItallie, T. B. (1999). Annual deaths attributable to obesity in the United States. JAMA, 282(16), 1530-1538.

Barlett, C. P., Vowels, C. L., & Saucier, D. A. (2008). Meta-analyses of the effects of media images on men’s body-image concerns. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 27, 279-310. doi: 10.1521/jscp.2008.27.3.279

Berke, E. M., & Morden, N. E. (2000). Medical management of obesity. American Family Physician, 62(2), 419-426.

Bookwala, J., & Boyar, J. (2008). Gender, excessive body weight, and psychological well-being in adulthood. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 32, 188-195. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.2008.00423.x

Carr, D., & Friedman, M. A. (2005). Is obesity stigmatizing? Body weight, perceived discrimination, and psychological well-being in the United States. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 46, 244-259. doi: 10.1177/002214650504600303

Carr, D., Friedman, M. A., & Jaffe, K. (2007). Understanding the relationship between obesity and positive and negative affect: The role of psychosocial mechanisms. Body Image 4(2), 165-177. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2007.02.004

Chen, E. Y., & Brown, M. (2005). Obesity stigma in sexual relationships. Obesity Research, 13, 1393-1397. doi: 10.1038/oby.2005.168

Corica, F., Corsonello, A., Apolone, G., Mannucci, E., Lucchetti, M., Bonfiglio, C…. Marchesini, G. (2008). Metabolic syndrome, psychological status and quality of life in obesity: The QUOVADIS study. International Journal of Obesity, 32, 185-191. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0803687

Cossrow, N. H. F., Jeffery, R. W., & McGuire, M. W. (2001). Understanding weight stigmatization: A focus group study. Journal of Nutrition Education, 33, 208-214. doi: 10.1016/S1499-4046(06)60033-X

Dupuy, H. J. (1984). The general psychological well-being (PGWB) index. In Wenger (Ed.), Assessment of quality of life in clinical trials of cardiovascular therapies (pp. 170-183). New York: Le Jacq.

Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49(1), 71-75. doi: 10.1207/s15327752jpa4901_13

Diener, E., Suh, E., & Oishi, S. (1997). Recent findings on subjective well-being. Indian Journal of Clinical Psychology, 24(1), 24-41.

Dierk, J., Conradt, M., Rauh, E., Schlumberger, P., Hebebrand, J., & Rief, W. (2006). What determines well-being in obesity? Associations with BMI, social skills, and social support. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 60, 219-227. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2005.06.083

Faulkner, N. H., French, S. A., Jeffery, R. W., Neumark-Sztainer, D., Sherwood, N. E., & Morton, N. (1999). Mistreatment due to weight: Prevalence and sources of perceived mistreatment in women and men. Obesity Research, 7, 575-576.

Finkelstein, M. M. (2000). Body mass index and quality of life in a survey of primary care patients. The Journal of Family Practice, 49(8), 734-737.

Forrest, K. Y. Z, & Stuhldreher, W. L. (2007). Patterns and correlates of body image dissatisfaction and distortion among college students. American Journal of Health Studies, 22, 18-25.

Friedman, M. A., & Brownell, K. D. (1995). Psychological correlates of obesity: Moving to the next research generation. Psychological Bulletin, 177, 3-20. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.117.1.3

Friedman, M. A., Reichmann, S. K., Costanzo, P. R., & Musante, G. J. (2002). Body image partially mediates the relationship between obesity and psychological distress. Obesity Research, 10, 33-41. doi: 10.1038/oby.2002.5

Grieve, F. G., Newton, C. C., Kelley, L., Miller, R. C., & Kerr, N. A. (2005). The preferred male body shapes of college men and women. Individual Differences Research, 3(3), 188-192.

Health consequences (2008, October). Annals of Internal Medicine, 149(7), I4.2-I4.3.

Hughes, G, & Degher, D. (1993). Coping with a deviant identity. Deviant Behavior, 14(4), 297-315.

Neumark-Sztainer, D., Falkner, N., Story, M., Perry, C., Hannan, P. J., & Mulert, S. (2002). Weight-teasing among adolescents: Correlations with weight status and disordered eating behaviors. International Journal of Obesity, 26, 123-131. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0801853

Pavot, W., & Diener, E. (1993). Review of the satisfaction with life scale. Psychological Assessment, 5(2), 164-172. doi: 10.1037/1040-3590.5.2.164

Wadden, T. A., & Stunkard, A. J. (1993). Psychosocial consequences of obesity and dieting – Research and clinical findings. In A. J. Stunkard & T. A. Wadden (Eds.), Obesity theory and therapy (pp. 163-177). New York: Raven Press.

Warren, C. S. (2008). The influence of awareness and internalization of Western appearance ideals on body dissatisfaction in Euro-American and Hispanic Males. Psychology of Men and Masculinity, 9, 257-266. doi: 10.1037/a0012472