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01.12.2017 | Research | Ausgabe 1/2017 Open Access

International Journal for Equity in Health 1/2017

Lookism hurts: appearance discrimination and self-rated health in South Korea

International Journal for Equity in Health > Ausgabe 1/2017
Hyemin Lee, Inseo Son, Jaehong Yoon, Seung-Sup Kim
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s12939-017-0678-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



Despite a growing body of evidence suggesting that discrimination harms health, the association between appearance discrimination and health has been understudied. Our study investigated the association between perceived appearance discrimination and self-rated health among emerging adults using a nationally representative cohort study in South Korea.


We analyzed the 2nd-10th (2005–2013) waves of cohort data from the Korean Education Employment Panel (KEEP). KEEP consists of two groups of individuals who were 15 (group I) and 18 (group II) years old at the 1st wave of the survey (2004) and were followed annually. Appearance discrimination was assessed at baseline (19 years old: 5th wave for group I, 2nd wave for group II) and at follow-up (24 years old: 10th wave for group I, 7th wave for group II). Responses of appearance discrimination at the two-time points were classified into four groups: 1) never (no discrimination at both baseline and follow-up); 2) repeated (discrimination at both baseline and follow-up); 3) incident (discrimination only at follow-up); and 4) in error (discrimination only at baseline). Multivariate logistic regression was applied to examine the association between reporting patterns of appearance discrimination and poor self-rated health, adjusting for potential confounders.


Compared to those who did not experience appearance discrimination, ‘repeated’ (OR: 3.70; 95% CI: 2.19–6.27) and ‘incident’ (OR: 3.10; 95% CI: 1.99–4.83) groups had a higher odds ratio of poor self-rated health after adjusting for potential confounders including respondents’ body mass index change and baseline self-rated health. However, no significant association was observed among those who reported appearance discrimination ‘in error’.


These results suggest that perceived appearance discrimination is associated with the health of Korean emerging adults considering participants’ reporting patterns of appearance discrimination.
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