Perceived weight discrimination and performance in five domains of cognitive function

Type Article

Journal Article


A. R. Sutin; Y. Stephan; M. A. Gerend; E. Robinson; M. Daly; A. Terracciano

Year of publication



Journal of Psychosomatic Research






Objective: Individuals who perceive unfair treatment because of their body weight have been found to be at increased risk of poor health outcomes, including risk of dementia. The present research examines the relation between weight discrimination and performance in five cognitive domains (episodic memory, speed-attention, visuospatial ability, language, numeric reasoning) and whether the associations extend to other common attributions for discrimination (age, gender, race). Method: Participants (n = 2593) were from the Harmonized Cognitive Assessment Protocol (HCAP) sub-study of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). HCAP participants completed a battery of cognitive tasks that measured the five focal cognitive domains. Participants reported on their perceived experiences with discrimination at the previous regular HRS assessment. Results: In models that accounted for demographic covariates and BMI, weight discrimination (reported by 6% of participants) was associated with a two-fold increased risk of poor performance on tasks of episodic memory, speed-attention, visuospatial ability, and numeric reasoning. Body mass index was largely unrelated to performance in the five cognitive domains. The other attributions for discrimination were generally unrelated to cognition, but there were sex- and race-specific associations for gender and race discrimination, respectively. Conclusions: The present study identified attribution- and domain-specific associations between discrimination and cognitive performance in older adulthood.