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Home > Research Articles > Depression leads to obesity, but the reverse is not true


Friday, November 29, 2002

- November 27, 2002

by Maria G. Essig, MS, ELS, senior medical writer - Depressed adolescents were significantly more likely to be come obese, according to a report in Pediatrics.

"Adolescent obesity is a strong predictor of adult obesity, and adult obesity has been associated with depression, especially in women," said Elizabeth Goodman and Robert C. Whitaker at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. "Studies have also suggested an association between depression in adolescence and higher body mass index in adulthood. Whether depression leads to obesity or obesity causes depression is unclear."

Goodman and Whitaker assessed body mass index (BMI), psychological characteristics, and socioeconomic factors of 9374 adolescents in 7th through 12th grades at baseline and again 1 year later.

Measurements taken at baseline revealed that 9.7% of the adolescents were obese (BMI greater than or equal to 95th percentile) and 12.9% were overweight (85th percentile less than or equal to BMI<95th percentile). Depression was present in 8.8% of the subjects at baseline although no association existed between BMI and depressed mood.

At the 1-year follow-up, 9.7% of the adolescents were obese; 79.6% had been obese at baseline, 18.6% had been overweight, and 1.8% had been normal weight. Adolescents who were depressed at baseline were over two times more likely than the nondepressed to be obese at follow-up, even after controlling for age, race, sex, parental obesity, number of parents in the home, socioeconomic level, smoking habits, self-esteem, delinquent behavior, and level of physical activity.

However, adolescents who were obese at baseline at baseline were not more likely to be depressed at follow-up.

"Depressed adolescents are at increased risk for the development and persistence of obesity during adolescence," concluded Goodman and Whitaker. "Understanding the shared biological and social determinants linking depressed mood and obesity may inform the prevention and treatment of both disorders." (A prospective study of the role of depression in the development and persistence of adolescent obesity. Pediatrics, 2002;110(3):497-504).

The corresponding author for this study is Elizabeth Goodman, Brandeis University, Heller School of Social Policy and Management, MS035, 415 South Street, Waltham, MA 02454, USA. E-mail: goodman@brandeis.edu.

A search at www.NewsRx.net using the search term "obesity risk factor" yielded 465 articles in 32 specialized reports.

Key points reported in this study include:

* Adolescents who were depressed were significantly more likely than nondepressed adolescents to be obese 1 year later

* Being obese did not increase the likelihood of being depressed 1 year later in adolescents

* Of the adolescents who were obese at a 1-year follow-up, almost all (98.2%) had been either obese or overweight at baseline This article was prepared by Obesity, Fitness & Wellness Week editors from staff and other reports.

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┬ęCopyright 2002, Obesity, Fitness & Wellness Week via NewsRx.com & NewsRx.net