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Research Review

Strong Link Between Obesity and Depression

Doctors should pay more attention to the link between common mental illness and obesity in patients because the two health problems are closely linked, according to researchers at the University of Adelaide.

In an editorial published in BMJ, the Adelaide researchers add support to claims of a two-way risk between obesity and common mental disorders. The editorial comments on a new research paper on this topic published in the same issue.

"A better understanding of the mechanisms for the apparent bidirectional risk between obesity and common mental disorders is needed for effective treatment and prevention," says the lead author of the editorial, Dr. Evan Atlantis from the University of Adelaide's School of Medicine.

"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," he says.

"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.

"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," he says.

Atlantis says patients presenting to their doctor with symptoms of common mental disorder should be assessed for obesity and related chronic diseases, and vice versa.

— Source: University of Adelaide