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Eat Behav. 2011 Jan;12(1):1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.eatbeh.2010.08.008. Epub 2010 Sep 21.

The relationship between obesity and psychiatric disorders across ethnic and racial minority groups in the United States.

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University of Massachusetts-Boston, 100 Morrissey Blvd., Boston, MA 02125-3393, USA.



Epidemiologic studies of obesity have not examined the prevalence and relationship of mental health conditions with obesity for diverse ethnic and racial populations in the United States.


(1) To assess whether obesity was associated with diverse psychiatric diagnoses across a representative sample of non-Latino whites, Latinos, Asians, African-Americans, and Afro-Caribbeans; and (2) to test whether physical health status, smoking, sociodemographic characteristics, and psychiatric comorbidities mediate any of the observed associations.


Our analyses used pooled data from the NIMH Collaborative Psychiatric Epidemiology Surveys (CPES). Analyses tested the association between obesity and psychiatric disorders in a diverse sample of Americans (N=13,837), while adjusting for factors such as other disorders, age, gender, socioeconomic status, smoking and physical health status (as measured by chronic conditions and WHO-DAS scores) in different models.


The relationship between obesity and last-year psychiatric disorders varied by ethnicity/race. The likelihood of having mood or anxiety disorder was positively associated with obesity for certain racial/ethnic groups, but was moderated by differences in physical health status. Substance-use disorders were associated with decreased odds for obesity in African-Americans.


The role of physical health status (as measured by chronic conditions and WHO-DAS scores) dramatically changes the pattern of associations between obesity and psychiatric disorders, suggesting the important role it plays in explaining differential patterns of association across racial and ethnic groups.

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