The Influence of Contested Racial Identity and Perceived Everyday Discrimination Exposure on Body Mass Index in US Adults

Danielle M. Krobath, Adolfo G. Cuevas, Jennifer D. Allen, Mei Chung, Christina D. Economos, Jayanthi Mistry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Contested racial identity—the discrepancy between one’s self-identified race and socially assigned race—is a social determinant of health and may contribute to overweight and obesity. Obesity is associated with a host of short- and long-term health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, a leading cause of death. Individuals racialized as Black, Hispanic, and Latino are at the greatest risk of obesity. Previous research indicates that experiencing interpersonal discrimination is associated with higher body mass index (BMI) in adults, and individuals with a contested racial identity are disproportionately exposed to interpersonal discrimination. However, the association between BMI and contested racial identity is unknown. This cross-sectional study measured the relationship between contested racial identity and perceived everyday discrimination on BMI in a nationally representative sample of US adults. Contested racial identity was measured with a binary variable indicating agreement between participants’ self-identified race and socially assigned race. Weighted unadjusted and adjusted multiple linear regression models quantified the associations between BMI and contested racial identity with and without the mean discrimination score. Covariates included nativity status, income, education, racial identity salience, gender, and age. Among 1689 participants, 18.3% had a contested racial identity. Contested identity was associated with significantly higher BMI (β = 1.01, 95% CI = 0.06, 1.92), but the relationship was attenuated when adjusting for interpersonal discrimination, suggesting that individuals with contested identity may face a greater risk of obesity due to their disproportionately high exposure to interpersonal racial discrimination. Further research is needed to elucidate the impact of racism on BMI and obesity risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Adults
  • BMI
  • Contested racial identity
  • Discrimination
  • Health disparities
  • Obesity
  • Racism
  • Socially assigned race

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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