The negative impacts of obesity

Your weight can affect every part of your life. The negative impacts of obesity can be seen in your health and can influence how long you will live. It can affect how you feel, the quality of your life and your finances.

A woman smiling at the camera

Your physical health

If you have obesity, you’re at a higher risk of developing several serious health conditions and diseases1. Some of these include:

  • 17 types of cancers including bowel, breast, pancreatic and leukaemia
  • Stroke
  • Dementia
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Back pain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Heart disease
  • Cataracts
  • Gall bladder disease
  • Sleep apnoea

The negative side effects of these conditions and diseases can drastically reduce your enjoyment of life. Sometimes, they can shorten your life.

Learn more about obesity comorbidities

Your mental health

Many people with obesity also struggle with poor mental health. People with obesity face stigma in education, personal relationships, healthcare and work2.

This discrimination can affect the way you see yourself and your self-worth. It can lead to loneliness3, lower self-esteem, depression and anxiety4.

This can lead people with obesity using food as a coping mechanism. This is also known as emotional eating.

Studies have found that you’re more likely to be depressed if you have obesity. People with depression are more likely to become obese5.

Your healthcare

Unfortunately, you may have even experienced discrimination and stigma from the people who should care for you.

There have been many studies6 which have detailed stigma from doctors, nurses and medical students which in some cases can impact healthcare.

There are other barriers to getting healthcare including being embarrassed about being weighed and medical equipment that is too small7. Sometimes, this might prevent you from doing routine cancer screenings and preventative health checks, which could affect your health in the future.

Your education and employment

Obesity can affect every aspect of your life, including your work. People with obesity during adolescence are more likely to drop out of school and not pursue higher education8.

Studies have found that people with obesity face a stigma about being lazy, unsuccessful and lacking self-discipline1. One negative side effect of obesity is that there’s evidence that you’re less likely to be employed and may earn lower wages9.

In the workplace, people with obesity report weight discrimination at every stage of employment. There can be discrimination in hiring, salary disparities, fewer promotions, harsher disciplinary actions, and higher contract termination rates10.

Your quality of life

It’s common for people with obesity to say they have a lower quality of life. Often, the higher your weight, the lower your quality of life11.

The reasons for a lower quality of life vary. You may find it difficult to get around so you can’t do the things you want to do. You may feel stigmatised and don’t enjoy social situations. You may feel self-conscious, so spend much of your time alone.

You may also face stigma, discrimination and even ridicule in many facets of your life12 which is demoralising and unfair.

FAQs about obesity and your treatment options

1 Puhl RM, Heuer CA. Obesity stigma: important considerations for public health. Am J Public Health. 2010;100(6):1019-1028. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2009.159491

2 Jung FU, Luck-Sikorski C. Overweight and Lonely? A Representative Study on Loneliness in Obese People and Its Determinants. Obes Facts. 2019;12(4):440-447. doi:10.1159/000500095

3 Friedman KE, Reichmann SK, Costanzo PR, Zelli A, Ashmore JA, Musante GJ. Weight stigmatization and ideological beliefs: relation to psychological functioning in obese adults. Obes Res. 2005;13(5):907-916. doi:10.1038/oby.2005.105

4 Fleetwood C, Matscheck D, Ramos Salas X. Stigma, identity and living with obesity A patient perspective. June 14, 2019 Viewed at Accessed February 2022

5 National Health and Medical Research Council (2013). Clinical practice guidelines for the management of overweight and obesity in adults, adolescents and children in Australia. Available at, accessed September 2019.

6 Puhl, R.M. and Heuer, C.A. (2009), The Stigma of Obesity: A Review and Update. Obesity, 17: 941-964.

7 Amy NK, Aalborg A, Lyons P, Keranen L. Barriers to routine gynecological cancer screening for White and African-American obese women. Int J Obes (Lond). 2006;30(1):147-155. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0803105

8 Lanza HI, Huang DY. Is Obesity Associated With School Dropout? Key Developmental and Ethnic Differences. J Sch Health. 2015;85(10):663-670. doi:10.1111/josh.12295

9 Averett, S. Obesity and labor market outcomes. IZA World of Labor 2019: 32 doi: 10.15185/izawol.32.v2

10 World Obesity Foundation Weight stigma fact sheet. Available at Accessed December 2021.

11 Fontaine KR, Barofsky I. Obesity and health-related quality of life. Obes Rev. 2001;2(3):173-182. doi:10.1046/j.1467-789x.2001.00032.x

12 Puhl R, Brownell KD. Bias, discrimination, and obesity. Obes Res. 2001;9(12):788-805. doi:10.1038/oby.2001.108