Abstract: (see Poster Gallery) Internalized Weight Stigma and Psychological Distress Among Black, Latinx, and Asian Immigrants (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

253P (see Poster Gallery) Internalized Weight Stigma and Psychological Distress Among Black, Latinx, and Asian Immigrants

Friday, January 13, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Vashti Adams, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Maryland at Baltimore, Baltimore, MD
Background and Purpose: Internalized stigma is known to be associated with adverse psychological outcomes. Indeed, research with racially minoritized immigrant populations has identified positive associations between self-stigma related to cancer, HIV, and mental health conditions and psychological distress. Self-stigma related to body weight is also known to be associated with harm, but is understudied among foreign-born populations. Researchers estimate that 40% of adults classified as overweight or obese may struggle with internalized weight stigma (IWS). With an estimated 44-77% of racially minoritized immigrants being classified as overweight or obese, it is likely that IWS is a relevant concern in immigrant populations as well. Although research with racially minoritized U.S. samples may also include immigrant participants, there is a need for research specifically focused on immigrant populations as there may be population-specific risk and protective factors. To this end, the present study sought to examine the prevalence and correlates of IWS as well as the association between IWS and psychological distress in a sample of Asian, Black, and Latinx immigrants.

Methods: A total of 200 immigrants aged 18-39 were recruited via Qualtrics survey panels as part of a larger cross-sectional study. Participants had a mean age of 31 (SD = 5.9) and predominately identified as women (n= 120, 60%), Asian (n = 118, 59%), and not overweight (n = 149, 75%). Descriptive statistics were used to calculate the prevalence of IWS, bivariate analyses were used to identify correlates of IWS, and multivariable linear regression was used to assess the association between IWS and psychological distress.

Results: Seventy-two (36%) participants reported moderate levels of IWS (scores ≥ 4 on the Modified Weight Bias Internalization Scale) and of those, 30 (15% of total sample, 42% of those with moderate IWS) reported high levels (≥ 5) of IWS. Subjective weight status and length of residence in the U.S. were associated with IWS. Participants who perceived themselves as overweight reported higher IWS (M = 4.36, SD = 1.64) than participants who did not perceive themselves as overweight (M = 2.83, SD = 1.43, p < .001). Similarly, participants who had lived in the U.S. for at least ten years reported higher IWS (M = 3.54, SD = 1.74) than participants who had lived in the U.S. for less than ten years (M = 2.91, SD = 1.46, p = .006). Controlling for demographic covariates, IWS was positively associated with psychological distress (ß = 1.07, p = .001).

Conclusions and Implications: Findings from this study contribute to a deeper understanding of the various forms of internalized stigma affecting racially minoritized immigrant populations and highlight the need to include weight-related self-stigma in research on internalized stigma. Findings also underscore the need for service providers to assess for weight-related attitudes, as these may be a contributing factor to poor mental wellbeing among members of this demographic. Lastly, because IWS is, in part, a reflection of social stereotypes about weight, social workers should work to prevent IWS by challenging negative weight-based stereotypes in both research and practice.