An initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Issue Brief

How Racial Discrimination Impacts Childhood Obesity

Ages 10-17


September 6th, 2023


This study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in July 2023, examines the association between racial discrimination with adiposity in children and adolescents.

The study of more than 6,000 youth ages 9 to 11 found that children who reported being exposed to racial discrimination were more likely to have a high body mass index one year later. The authors define racial discrimination as “discriminatory actions, attitudes, or prejudices exhibited by individuals toward others based on their perceived racial or ethnic background” and cite a growing body of evidence that links exposure to discrimination with health outcomes such as depression and sleep difficulty. Children participating in the study reported that teachers, other students at school, and adults outside of school were most likely to treat them unfairly because of their race or ethnicity.