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What is the Connection Between Obesity and Depression?

Susan Grindstaff
Susan Grindstaff

The connection between obesity and depression is generally considered to be clearly defined, and either one of the conditions can lead to the other. Clinical studies conducted in the Netherlands showed that people who were overweight had a risk of more than 55% of becoming depressed. In addition, people who were already depressed had a 58% higher risk of becoming overweight. For most experts, these results were not surprising. There has long been a belief that obesity and depression were connected.

Being overweight can cause depression due to many different factors. Overweight people may tire more easily than people with normal weight, and they may also suffer more health problems. In some instances, people who are obese may suffer from emotional problems such as low self imagine and shyness. In severe cases, they may become reclusive and anti-social. Any of the problems associated with obesity could also lead to depression.


Many people who suffer from depression often find some comfort in food. This can apply to either mild or severe depression. In addition, many people who are depressed are often less active, and this reduction in activity can cause weight gain, even if they are eating normally. Certain medications that are typically prescribed for treating depression may also cause weight gain. This is particularly true of some anti-depressants such as Prozac and Paxil.

The tendency for obesity and depression to be linked seems to be much more common in women than in men. This is believed to be largely due to the fact that women are generally more likely to suffer from both obesity and depression. One surprising finding from the Netherlands study seemed to suggest that the link between obesity and depression was more common in wealthier people than it was in the poor.

Many experts have determined that when treating obesity and depression, it is probably a good idea if the treatment encompasses the two conditions as one, rather than treating them separately. For instance, treating the two conditions together would likely avoid the use of anti-depressants that cause weight gain. In addition, dieting would probably need to be approached in a very different manner, as dieting often escalates depression.

One of the most impressive studies aimed at confirming the link between obesity and depression was conducted by the University of Alabama. The study involved more than 5,000 male and female participants and followed them through a period of 15 years. Participants in the study were in the age range of 18-35 years.

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