There’s a distinct link between obesity and depression, according to a new report from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics.
Experts reviewed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys from 2005 to 2010, and found that about 43 percent of people who have been diagnosed with depression and 55 percent of those who take antidepressants are also obese.
The survey’s data, however, does not explain the relationship between the two disorders, according to the report’s author, epidemiologist Laura Pratt.“We are just describing the relationship, but we don’t have anything in our data that would help us answer the why question,” she said.
During the time of the surveys, 34.6 percent of U.S. adults aged 20 and over were obese, and 7.2 percent had depression. Those who reported more severe symptoms of depression were more likely to be obese as well, researchers said.
The two issues have been linked for some time.
“What is less clear is which comes first,” said David Engstrom, Ph.D., in an article on the Obesity Action Coalition website. “Certainly, increased appetite, reduced activity and weight gain can be symptoms of depression, and people with depression are more likely to binge eat and less likely to exercise regularly. Both depression and obesity have strong genetic links, so children of people with either or both problems are more predisposed to have them as well.”
Experts suggested that depression and obesity are so closely tied because both conditions can cause isolation and lead to more sedentary behavior. Too, a poor diet that doesn’t include essential nutrients can also trigger both obesity and depression.
Some medications to treat depression might cause weight gain, further cementing the link.
According to Engstrom, many people with depression experienced a reduction of symptoms after weight loss, suggesting that a healthy diet and exercise to boost endorphins can help treat both conditions.