Study leader Markus H. Schafer, a doctoral student in sociology and gerontology at Purdue University, and Kenneth F. Ferraro, a distinguished professor of sociology, compared body mass indexes to people's health and perceptions of weight discrimination.
The study involved 1,500 people, ages 25-74, who were surveyed in 1995 and 2005 about issues related to aging and health equality.
"As expected, those who were obese fared worse in overall health when they were followed up with 10 years later," Schafer says in a statement. "But we found there was a difference among those who felt they were discriminated against and those who didn't."
About 11 percent of those who were moderately obese and 33 percent who were severely obese reported weight discrimination and this group showed the sharpest decline over time in functional abilities, such as climbing stairs or carrying everyday items -- a measure for health status.
"We've seen considerable progress to address racial and gender discrimination in the United States, but the iceberg of weight discrimination still receives relatively little attention," Ferraro says.
The findings are published in Social Psychology Quarterly.