Somatic, Vegetative Symptoms of Depression Associated With Body Weight

A man measuring his waist
A man measuring his waist
Investigators found data that showed older men reported more depressive symptoms that were associated with high waist-to-hip ratios.

The link between depression and obesity has been well-documented. When looking specifically at depressive symptom clusters, body weight status is associated with somatic/vegetative symptoms, but not mood and cognitive symptoms, according to results published in Frontiers in Psychiatry.

Investigators examined data from 2 large European studies (Multi-country Collaborative Project on the Role of Diet, Food-Related Behavior, and Obesity in the Prevention of Depression [MoodFOOD; identifier: NCT02529423] and NESDA [The Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety]). Data from an equal number of participants from each study were analyzed (N=504). The population had a mean age of 41.93 years (SD=13.61) and occurred in 73.0% of women. Regarding body weight status, participants had a mean body mass index of 26.62 kg/m2 (SD=5.33) and a mean waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) of 0.86 (SD=0.09). Regarding depression, 58% of participants had no or low severity of depressive symptoms, 35% had mild severity, and 7% displayed moderately severe symptoms. In total, 29.9% met criteria for a lifetime major depressive disorder diagnosis.

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Body mass index negatively corresponded to mood (β=−0.03) and cognitive (β=−0.04) symptoms, but positively with somatic/vegetative symptoms such as pain, energy level, and sleep-related variables (β=0.13). WHR had a similar relationship in all 3 categories (−0.05, −0.02, and 0.12, respectively). In addition, higher WHR was also associated with being an older man.

“[The] present study provides further evidence that there is heterogeneity in depressive symptoms in relation to body weight status, especially as assessed by the WHR…. Treatment strategies of both depression and obesity should take the present results into account, e.g., by adapting and targeting interventions to the presented…symptoms displayed by the individual patient,” the investigators concluded.


Baldofski S, Mauche N, Dogan-Sander E, et al. Depressive symptom clusters in relation to body weight status: results from two large European multicenter studies. Front Psychiatry. 2019;10:858.