Obesity and depression are clearly linked

Harold Mandel's picture
An overweight young girl eating pizza
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There is a clear association between obesity and depression. Obesity has been reaching almost epidemic levels in recent years. Poor diets and sedentary lifestyles appear to be the biggest culprits for obesity. Aside from anticipated problems with increased rates of diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer and heart disease with obesity, there is also a clear link to depression. Also, depressed people are often more likely to become obese due to poor eating habits and lack of exercise.

Obesity and major depressive disorder have been observed to be associated, however evidence about how they relate over time has been conflicting, reports the International Journal of Obesity. Researchers decided to examine prospective associations which exist between depression and obesity from early adolescence through early adulthood.

It was indicated by cross-sectional results that depression and obesity with onsets by early adolescence were concurrently associated. However, this same association was not found later in development. It was indicated by prospective results that depression by early adolescence predicted the onset of obesity during late adolescence among females. It was also observed that obesity that developed during late adolescence predicted the onset of depression during early adulthood among females.

The researchers concluded that adolescence is a high-risk period for the development of this comorbidity for girls The nature of the risk varies over the course of adolescence. There is an association between early adolescent-onset depression and elevated risk of later onset obesity. Also, obesity, particularly in late adolescence, is associated with increased risk of later depression. It appears that prevention programs which are focused on early-onset cases of depression and adolescent-onset cases of obesity, particularly among females, may help in lowering the risk for this form of comorbidity.

Depression and obesity have long been found to be associated, however how they relate to each other over time has been less clear. New research by a Rutgers University–Camden professor has showed that adolescent females who experience one of these disorders are at an increased risk for the other as they get older, reports Rutgers University.

Naomi Marmorstein, an associate professor of psychology at Rutgers–Camden has said, “Adolescence is a key developmental period for both obesity and depression, so we thought it significant to look at the onset of these disorders at an early age.” In an assessment of more than 1,500 males and females in Minnesota over a period of more than 10 years, Marmorstein and colleagues discovered that depression which occurs by early adolescence in females predicts obesity by late adolescence. Also, obesity which occurs by late adolescence in females serves as a good predictor of the onset of depression by early adulthood. There were not any significant associations found between the two disorders across time in males during the study.

Marmorstein has emphasized that this study was not designed to explore the reasons for these associations. However, other theories and research addresses the possible explanations. Marmorstein says depression can lead to obesity via:

1: Increased appetite

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2: Poor sleep patterns

3: Lethargy

Marmorstein also says obesity can cause depression due to:

1: Weight stigma

2: Poor self-esteem

3: Reduced mobility

Marmorstein has explained when a person is young, she is still developing eating and activity patterns, along with coping mechanisms. Therefore if a young person experiences a depressive episode at 14 years old she may be more at risk for having an onset of unhealthy patterns which persist. Furthermore, a child who is obese may be more susceptible to negative societal messages dealing with obesity or teasing, which could contribute to the development of depression. Marmorstein thinks that prevention efforts which are aimed at both of these disorders at the same time when one of them is diagnosed in adolescents might help in lowering their prevalence and comorbidity.

It appears to me that due to the sensitive nature of emotional development during adolescence clearly teasing young obese girls about being overweight could set off depression. And clearly the lack of healthy activity and eating patterns associated with depression could lead to obesity. It makes a lot of sense to address both issues during adolescence if one is diagnosed, or for prevention. Positive supportive counseling which focuses on expressing positive views of an adolescent may be helpful. Adolescents should also be encouraged to eat nutritious foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and fish and to get an adequate amount of exercise daily.

Photo courtesy of marin/Freedigitalphotos.net

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this article was very interesting