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Int J Obes (Lond). 2009 Mar;33(3):335-41. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2008.273. Epub 2009 Jan 13.

Obesity and weight gain in relation to depression: findings from the Stirling County Study.

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  • 1Psychiatric Epidemiology, Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, 5 Longfellow Place, Boston, MA 02114, USA.



This study concerns the question of whether obese subjects in a community sample experience depression in a different way from the nonobese, especially whether they overeat to the point of gaining weight during periods of depression.


A representative sample of adults was interviewed regarding depression and obesity.


The sample consisted of 1396 subjects whose interviews were studied regarding relationships between obesity and depression and among whom 114 had experienced a major depressive episode at some point in their lives and provided information about the symptoms experienced during the worst or only episode of major depression.


The Diagnostic Interview Schedule (DIS) was used to identify major depressive episodes. Information was also derived from the section on Depression and Anxiety (DPAX) of the Stirling Study Schedule. Obesity was calculated as a body mass index >30. Logistic regressions were employed to assess relationships, controlling for age and gender, by means of odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals.


In the sample as a whole, obesity was not related to depression although it was associated with the symptom of hopelessness. Among those who had ever experienced a major depressive episode, obese persons were 5 times more likely than the nonobese to overeat leading to weight gain during a period of depression (P<0.002). These obese subjects, compared to the nonobese, also experienced longer episodes of depression, a larger number of episodes, and were more preoccupied with death during such episodes.


Depression among obese subjects in a community sample tends to be more severe than among the nonobese. Gaining weight while depressed is an important marker of that severity. Further research is needed to understand and possibly prevent the associations, sequences and outcomes among depression, obesity, weight gain and other adversities.

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