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Obes Res. 1998 Sep;6(5):338-45.

Psychiatric ill-health of women and its relationship to obesity and body fat distribution.

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  • 1Department of Heart and Lung Diseases, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Göteborg, Sweden.



Abdominal obesity is associated with serious, prevalent diseases. Previously, psychiatric symptoms and ill-health has been found in this condition in men. The results of a similar study in women is reported herein.


A cohort of 1464 women, aged 40 years and recruited by systematic sampling, was examined (77.7% participation rate). Items regarding use of anxiolytics, hypnotics, and antidepressive drugs were registered, as well as symptoms of dyspepsia, sleeping disturbances, melancholy, and degree of life satisfaction. Smoking and alcohol consumption, as well as self-measured weight, height, waist, and hip circumferences, were reported, from which body mass index [BMI; weight (kg)/height2 (m2), kg/m2] and the waist/hip circumference ratio (WHR) were calculated.


In bivariate analyses, BMI was associated with use of anxiolytics, antidepressive drugs, various sleeping disturbances, and a low degree of life satisfaction. After controlling for the WHR, alcohol, and tobacco use in multivariate analysis, the associations between BMI and use of anxiolytics and sleeping disturbances remained significant. The WHR correlated with dyspepsia, sleeping problems, and use of antidepressive drugs. After adjustments for BMI, smoking, and alcohol, the relationship to dyspepsia and antidepressants remained significant.


The results suggest that elevated BMI (obesity) and elevated WHR (central fat distribution) are associated in different ways with symptoms of psychiatric ill-health in women. Obesity alone shows no such relationships to psychiatric ill-health in men, whereas central fat distribution shows independent associations to all of the measured variables studied in this report in women, suggesting gender differences in these associations.

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