Weight Discrimination Is Rampant The World Over

A little junk in the trunk could cost you a career in Japan, according to new government guidelines. Bloomberg reports that "Companies will be required to cut the number of overweight workers and dependents by 10 percent as of 2012 and 25 percent by 2015. Failing to do so will result in a surcharge of as much as 10 percent on contributions to a fund for elderly care." What is "overweight" in Japan? For men, it's a waistline of over 33.5 inches (85 centimeters), though other health indicators will also be used, like blood pressure, nicotine use, body mass and cholesterol. The Japanese are instituting these stringent penalties to combat the rising cost of health care and the growing obesity problem; health care spending rose 23% from 1995 to 2005. Even Sumo wrestlers, long heralded by the Japanese, are feeling the pressure to downsize: "Konishiki, whom fans call 'the Dump Truck' and who was the all- time heaviest competitor at more than 600 pounds, underwent gastric bypass surgery last month," reports Bloomberg.

But people being discriminated against because of their weight is not just specific to Japan. According to a new survey from Yale, 5% of men and twice as many women say they've faced weight discrimination, whether at the office or just generalized rude treatment. Reuters reports that "Women were particularly likely to perceive weight bias, with twice as many women as men reporting such discrimination."

It gets worse. Women who are only slightly overweight perceive comparable levels of discrimination as severely overweight men and are "particularly likely to perceive weight bias, with twice as many women as men reporting such discrimination." Says Yale researcher Dr. Rebecca M. Puhl, this is probably due to "the stringent and unrealistic ideals of thinness that are placed on women in North America."

Japan's Bulging Waistlines Trigger Flab Tests in Land of Sumo [Bloomberg, via Al Dente Blog via Andrew Sullivan]
Weight Discrimination Common, U.S. Survey Finds [Reuters]