Obesity correlates with psychiatric disorders

Already linked to diabetes and heart disease, obesity is also associated with heightened risks of major depression and bipolar and panic disorders, a national survey shows.

Previous surveys demonstrated the obesity-depression link. The new survey of about 9,000 adults 18 and older from across the United States extends the association to bipolar disorder, general anxiety and panic disorder.

Gregory Simon of the Group Health Cooperative in Seattle and his colleagues found that obese adults were 25 percent more likely than normal-weight adults to report any of the mood or anxiety disorders, including depression. However, that same population of obese adults was 25 percent less likely than normal-weight people to report drug or alcohol abuse during their lifetimes.

Interestingly, says Simon, white people and high-income individuals showed the strongest link between obesity and psychiatric disorders, even though those two groups generally have a low rate of obesity. The team’s analysis took into account participants’ age, sex, and smoking status, the researchers report in the July Archives of General Psychiatry.

The team didn’t try to establish cause and effect between obesity and psychiatric disorders, but “it’s pretty likely that things go in both directions,” says Simon.

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