Relationship between obesity and depression in girls

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It is, perhaps, no surprise that obesity and depression are related. But, how they relate has been unclear. A new study shows that adolescent females who experience one of the disorders are at a greater risk for the other as they get older.

Key developmental period leaving girls vulnerable

“Adolescence is a key developmental period for both obesity and depression, so we thought it significant to look at the onset of these disorders at an early age,” explained Naomi Marmorstein, associate professor of psychology at Rutgers-Camden. By assessing a sample of more than 1500 males and females from Minnesota over a period of more than 10 years, they found that depression occurring in early adolescence predicts obesity by late adolescence for these young girls.

Intertwined relationship

Conversely they found that obesity that occurs by late adolescence in females predicts the onset of depression by early adulthood. The same associations were not found for boys or men. “When researchers looked at this connection over time data had been mixed,” Marmorstein noted. “Some found that depression and obesity go hand-in-hand, while others did not see that connection. We tried to take the next step in clarifying this link by looking at a sample of youth that we followed from ages 11 to 24.”

Did not ascertain cause for relationship or for obesity and depression

“When a person is young, she is still developing eating and activity patterns, as well as coping mechanisms,” Marmorstein said. “So if she experiences a depressive episode at age 14, she may be more at risk for having an onset of unhealthy patterns that persist.” Prevention strategies for both disorders could be presented simultaneously. “When an adolescent girl receives treatment for depression, the clinician might consider incorporating something relating to healthy eating and activity,” she said. “Exercise can assist in the treatment of depression to begin with, so it seems like a good reason to combine prevention efforts for both depression and obesity.”

Source: MedicalNewsToday, International Journal of Obesity
Photo by Angelo Gonzalez at


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