While American society generally frowns on race- or gender-based discrimination, Americans still hold open biases against people who suffer from obesity, according to a study published by Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity that will appear in the June issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

Not only do those biases threaten the psychological and physical health of obese people, but they are also an issue of social justice, Yale reearchers Rebecca Puhl GRD ’04 and Chelsea Heuer wrote in the study.

Puhl and Heuer found that the persistence of weight bias does not motivate obese people to lose weight but is instead correlated with the persistence of unhealthy eating habits and low physical activity. Since society tends to blame obese people for their weight and portray them negatively in the media, passing federal legislation against weight bias would be an effective way to combat the obesity epidemic, Puhl said.

Click here to read the full study in the American Journal of Public Health.