Being overweight and depression
Do people gain weight because they’re depressed, or do they become depressed because they’re overweight? A review of 15 studies found evidence that both scenarios are likely true. The study, published in 2010 in the Archives of General Psychiatry, found that obese people have a 55% higher risk of developing depression over time compared with people of normal weight. Here are some reasons why obesity may increase risk of depression:
- Both conditions appear to stem (at least in part) from alterations in brain chemistry and function in response to stress.
- Psychological factors are also plausible. In our culture, thin equals beautiful, and being overweight can lower self-esteem, a known trigger for depression.
- Odd eating patterns and eating disorders, as well as the physical discomfort of being obese, are known to foster depression.
The study also found that depressed people have a 58% higher risk of becoming obese. Here are some reasons why depression may lead to obesity:
- Elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol (common in people with depression) may alter substances in fat cells that make fat accumulation, especially in the belly, more likely, according to one theory.
- People who feel depressed often feel too blue to eat properly and exercise regularly, making them more prone to gain weight.
- Some medications used to treat depression cause weight gain.