Obesity and Depression Strongly Linked

The link between common mental illness and obesity should be given more attention because the two health problems are closely connected, according to researchers at the University of Adelaide. An editorial in the British Medical Journal add support to claims of a two-way risk between obesity and common mental disorders.

Dr. Evan Atlantis, from University of Adelaide’s School of Medicine, claims, “A better understanding of the mechanisms for the apparent bi-directional risk between obesity and common mental disorders is needed for effective treatment and prevention. Although the topic is largely unexplored, several psychosocial, lifestyle and physiological factors may be involved in the complex inter-relationship between obesity and mental illness.”

The commentary goes on to explain that, “Obese people, especially those who perceive themselves as being overweight- often experience weight-related stigma and discrimination, and consequently present with symptoms of low self esteem, low self worth, and guilt. Obesity is associated with socioeconomic disadvantage and low levels of physical activity, both of which are strong predictors of depression.

Dr. Atlantis says, “Obesity may constitute a chronic stressful state, which in turn can cause significant physiological dysfunction. Such dysfunction would then predispose individuals to depressed mood and associated symptoms. Reduced physical activity and overeating – particularly comfort foods rich in fats and sugar to improve mood – are common among depressed and anxious patients.”

Dr. Atlantis advises that patients presenting to their doctor with symptoms of common mental disorder should be assessed for obesity and related chronic diseases, and vice versa. He states, “A multidisciplinary approach that focuses on promoting a healthy lifestyle is important. Further research on how best to deliver lifestyle interventions is needed, along with government action on taxes tariffs, and trade laws to encourage supply and consumption of healthy food and physical activity choices.”


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