fat because we are depressed or does depression cause weight gain ?

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We already know there is a link between depression and weight gain but now new research has confirmed that link.

What the research appears to indicate is that being overweight to begin with doesn’t necessarily mean you are depressed or will become depressed but if you are depressed you are more likely to gain weight.

“We found that in a sample of young adults during a 15-year period, those who started out reporting high levels of depression gained weight at a faster rate than others in the study, but starting out overweight did not lead to changes in depression,” said assistant Professor of Sociology Belinda Needham, from University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

Obesity has been hitting the headlines a lot lately, part of the reason for this is that obesity is becoming a major concern on both sides of the Atlantic as more people are putting on weight.

Obesity of course carries an increased risk of other health problems including cardiovascular disease and cancer. Professor Needham reckons that the results of this study have implications for the treatment of obesity.

“Our study is important because if you are interested in controlling obesity, and ultimately eliminating the risk of obesity-related diseases, then it makes sense to treat people’s depression” said Needham.

“It’s another reason to take depression seriously and not to think about it just in terms of mental health, but to also think about the physical consequences of mental health problems,” Needham added.

The results came from analysing data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study which was a study involving over 5,000 men and women between the ages of 18 and 30.

Professor Needham wanted to look at whether increases in body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference was associated with depression or whether depression was associated with a change in BMI over time.

What Professor Needham found was that on the whole everyone gained weight during the 15 year period although people who started out reporting high levels of depression gained weight faster than those who reported fewer symptoms of depression.

In contrast though, “a high initial BMI and waist circumference did not influence the rate of change in symptoms of depression over time,” said Needham.

The study appears in the June issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

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