Effects of attributions and social media exposure on obesity stigma among Korean adolescents
Yujin Lim and Soontae An (Ewha Womans University), 2018, 46(12), 2049–2062. 

Negative attitudes toward people with obesity, leading to obesity stigma, are well-documented. However, this examination of obesity and obesity stigma in South Korean adolescents, with a focus on the role of social media exposure, is particularly relevant. 

Recent researchers have found that social media use among adolescents has a significant effect on adolescents’ body image, eating behavior, and body dissatisfaction. Not only is South Korea a country with one of the highest levels of Internet use, and where social media use is a daily routine for adolescents, South Korea’s collectivistic culture is one that emphasizes the social face. In addition, as South Korea has become more materialistic, with a focus on acquiring goods and wealth, lookism, which is discrimination based on appearance, has manifested throughout South Korean society.

Participants were 202 South Korean high school students. The results showed that even participants who linked the cause of obesity to situational factors such as genetic predisposition and home environment, that is, external attribution, demonstrated negative attitudes toward individuals with obesity, when participants had a high level of social media exposure to stereotypical body images. Thus, the emphasis on thinness and physical attractiveness in body image content on social media may have strengthened obesity stigmatization.

The results also showed that internal attribution had a significant direct effect on obesity stigma. Participants who believed that the causes of obesity are internal, for example, lack of exercise and irresponsible food intake, showed a more negative attitude toward obesity. This result indicates the need for communication with adolescents regarding the causes of being overweight or obese, because such causal attribution can have serious consequences, such as discrimination at work or school.

The authors suggest ways that the obesity stigma for adolescents can be addressed; for example, social media channels can play a crucial role in instilling stigma-reducing perspectives. This examination of one aspect of a global health issue is very helpful and timely.

Katharine Samuel | Copyeditor
Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal