Adults With Depression More Likely to be Obese

Marcia Frellick

October 20, 2014

Among adults with depression, 43.2% were obese compared with 33.0% of adults without depression, according to an October National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) data brief.

Laura Pratt, PhD, and Debra Brody, MPH, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's NCHS in Atlanta, Georgia, also report several other major findings:

  • Regardless of age, women with depression were more likely to be obese than women without depression.

  • More non-Hispanic white women with depression were obese compared with non-Hispanic white women without depression. That link was not evident in non-Hispanic black and Mexican-American women.

  • The percentage of adults with obesity rose with severity of depression. For women, more than half of those with severe depression were obese compared with one third of women without depressive symptoms.

  • More than half (55%) of adults who were taking antidepressants, but who still had moderate to severe depressive symptoms, were obese.

  • Men aged 60 years and older with depression were more likely to be obese than men in that age group without depression, but obesity rates did not differ with depression status for men younger than 60 years.

The authors note that the study was unable to answer questions about whether depression or obesity occurred first because the factors were measured at the same time. However, previous studies have shown that the link goes both ways: Obesity increases risk for depression and depression increases risk for obesity.

"Understanding the relationship between depression (defined by moderate to severe symptoms) and antidepressant usage and obesity may inform treatment and prevention strategies for both conditions," the authors write.

The researchers analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2005-2010. Survey participants answered interview questions and visited a mobile center for a physical exam.

Obesity in adults is defined as body mass index of at least 30 kg/m2. Depression was measured using the Patient Health Questionnaire, a nine-item tool that asks about the frequency of symptoms of depression during the past 2 weeks. Both depression and obesity are associated with health risks including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and functional limitations.

"Depression and Obesity in the U.S. Adult Household Population, 2005-2010." NCHS. Full text

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