Body weight or body mass index (BMI), but not height, predicted depression among adults in the United States, according to study data published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

Investigator Jeffrey R. Vittengl, PhD, conducted a cross-sectional observational study with data abstracted from 5 consecutive waves (2007-2016) of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The survey collected sociodemographic and clinical variables from a nationally representative sample of US residents, including age, sex, economic status, height, weight, and BMI. The study assessed survey data from participants aged 20 years or older (n=23,739). Depressive symptoms were captured with the Patient Health Questionnaire-9. Trained health technicians measured participants to ascertain body weight and BMI.

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Depressive symptoms were higher among women, younger people, and people of lower socioeconomic status. Depressive symptoms were also more common among whites compared with Hispanic and black individuals. Body weight, but not standing height, was significantly predictive of depressive symptoms. Men in the top 10% BMI decile had significantly elevated depressive symptoms compared with their counterparts of lower BMIs; the same trend was observed among the top 30% to 40% of women. The BMI ranges predicting elevated depressive symptoms among women (BMI ≥30 kg/m2) and men (BMI ≥36 kg/m2) were above the existing clinical overweight and obesity definitions, respectively.

Future longitudinal research is necessary to clarify the causal relationship between body weight and depression. Additional body shape values, such as body fat percentage, may also have prognostic value for depressive symptoms.

Reference

Vittengl JR. Which body shape dimensions and sizes predict depression? J Affect Disord. 2019;250:193-198.