Objectives Obesity has been shown to be negatively related to physical health-related quality of life (HQOL) much more strongly than mental HQOL. This is remarkable given findings on obesity-related social stigmata and associations with depression. Considering obesity as a stressor, this study tests for a moderating role of social support for obesity/HQOL associations among women and men.
Design Data come from N=2,732 participants aged 35–74 years in a 2004–2005 general population survey in the Augsburg region, Germany.
Methods Body weight and height were assessed by anthropometric measurements (classified by body mass index using WHO standards), social support by the Social Support Questionnaire 14-item Short-Form (F-SozU-K14) and HQOL by the 12-item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-12). In multiple regression and general linear models, age, education, family status, health insurance, and place of residence were adjusted for.
Results Among both genders, obesity was associated with reduced physical but not mental HQOL. Among men reporting strong social support, physical HQOL was impaired neither in the moderately nor the severely obese group (compared with normal weight), while it was given less social support. Among women, poor physical HQOL was associated with obesity regardless of social support.
Conclusions In this adult population sample, no association was found for obesity with mental HQOL. In contrast, a negative association with physical HQOL exists for all subgroups except men with strong social support, indicating that social support buffers obesity-related impairments in physical HQOL in men but not in women. This suggests that obese women and men with strong social support represent distinct populations, with possible implications for obesity care.