Feeling the pressure to lose weight in adolescence is linked to high levels of "internalized" weight stigma almost two decades later, a recent study has revealed.

According to the study published in Lancet Regional Health, people who were bullied, teased, and pressured to lose weight during their teenage years by family and media may develop internalized weight stigma by the age of 31. This means they develop negative stereotypes about their obesity, such as feeling less attractive, competent, or valuable due to their weight.

Researchers noted that developing internalized weight stigma is linked to negative outcomes, including poor mental health and disordered eating.

The study used data from Bristol's Children of the 90s or the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children to estimate the differences in internalized weight stigma in over 4,000 participants who were aged 31 based on their sex, ethnicity, socioeconomic factors, sexual orientation, and family and other social influences in childhood and adolescence.

The results showed that those who experienced pressure from family to shed weight or those who were teased about weight by family members, and felt media pressure to slim down during their teen years had increased levels of internalized weight stigma by age 31. These associations persisted regardless of variations in body mass index (BMI). Bullying at the age of 17 and adulthood ( 23 years) was also independently linked to internalized weight stigma at age 31.

The researchers also found that females and people who did not identify as heterosexual are at greater risk of internalized weight stigma. The risk is also higher for individuals who had spent more of their 20s as NEETs (not in education, employment, or training), or whose mothers had fewer educational qualifications.

"The family environment in adolescence, bullying, and pressure to lose weight from the media may have long-lasting impacts on how people value themselves based on their weight as adults," said Dr Amanda Hughes, corresponding author of the study.

"We have an opportunity to reduce weight stigma and its consequences by changing how we discuss weight in the media, in public spaces, and in families, and how we respond to bullying in schools, workplaces, and other settings. This is crucial considering how common pressure to lose weight and weight-related bullying, stigma, and discrimination are in many cultures around the world," Dr. Hughes added.