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Oct 19, 2015 11:14 AM EDT

New research suggests that people who experience weight discrimination have a greater risk of dying.

Researchers from Florida State University College of Medicine found that people who report being subjected to weight discrimination had a 60 percent greater risk of dying. Not because they may be overweight, but because of the apparent effects of the discrimination.

"What we found is that this isn't a case of people with a higher body-mass index (BMI) being at an increased risk of mortality -- and they happen to also report being subjected to weight discrimination," researcher Angelina Sutin, assistant professor of behavioral sciences and social medicine at the medical school, said in a statement. "Independent of what their BMI actually is, weight discrimination is associated with increased risk of mortality."

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For the study, researchers examined data involving more than 18,000 people from separate longitudinal studies, comparing those who reported experiencing weight discrimination with those who did not. Accounting for other factors that might explain a greater risk for mortality, the researchers found that individuals reporting weight discrimination had a 60 percent greater chance of dying over the follow-up period.

"To our knowledge, this is the first time that this has been shown -- that weight discrimination is associated with an increased risk of mortality," researcher Antonio Terracciano, associate professor in the College of Medicine's Department of Geriatrics, said in a statement.

Weight discrimination is not always meant to be mean-spirited, but a body of evidence demonstrates that it has harmful effects nonetheless. Previous studies indicate that teasing a person to lose weight has the opposite effect over the long-term, including a study by Sutin and Terracciano that was published in PLoS One in 2013. Indeed, people who are stigmatized because of their weight are more likely to engage in the kind of behavior that contributes to obesity, including unhealthy eating and avoiding physical activity.

The findings are detailed in the journal Psychological Science

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