Study: Psychological impact of obesity likely to cause depression

WASHINGTON — There’s long been a link between obesity and depression, but no clarity about the degree to which one might impact the other.

A new study from the University of Exeter and the University of South Australia finds that being overweight can cause depression, even when no other health problems exist.

Researchers studied the medical and genetic information of about 338,000 people to conclude that the psychological impact of being overweight can cause depression. The study found this effect is stronger in women than in men.

“Obesity and depression are both global health problems that have a major impact on lives and are costly to health services. We’ve long known there’s a link between the two, yet it’s unclear whether obesity causes depression or vice-versa, and also whether it’s being overweight in itself or the associated health problems that can cause depression,” Dr. Jessica Tyrrell, of the University of Exeter Medical School, said in a news release.

“Our robust genetic analysis concludes that the psychological impact of being obese is likely to cause depression. This is important to help target efforts to reduce depression, which makes it much harder for people to adopt healthy lifestyle habits,” Tyrrell said.

The full paper, “Using genetics to understand the causal influence of higher BMI on depression,” is published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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