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Child Psychiatrist /Adult Psychiatrist

Increasing Weight From Childhood to Adulthood Associated With Depression

Updated: Sep 15, 2023

Depression statistics everyone should know.

Resolving excess weight by adulthood may mitigate mental health risks in adolescents.

Increasing weight or persistent overweight status from childhood to adulthood is associated with a higher risk for depression, according to the results published by Obesity Reviews.

Researchers conducted a systematic review of the MEDLINE, PsychINFO, Embase, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, and Scopus databases for studies with a longitudinal design that assessed weight change from childhood to adulthood that were associated with depression and anxiety. A total of 17 studies were included in the final review.

A meta-analysis could not be performed due to a high level of heterogeneity observed across all the studies. The Newcastle-Ottawa scale was used to assess and rate the quality of included studies. The researchers found that 11 studies were determined to be of moderate quality, and the remaining 6 were considered high quality.

Of the 17 studies, 11 defined weight change between 2 points in time, and the remaining articles defined weight change based on 3 or more documented weights. Weight status was measured using body mass index (BMI) or BMI z-scores in 14 studies. The remaining articles used retrospective measures to define weight status. Depression outcomes were evaluated in 13 studies, and only one evaluated anxiety as the sole outcome. The remaining 5 studies evaluated a composite risk of anxiety and depression.

"[P]ersistent and/or increasing adiposity from childhood to adulthood is associated with an increased risk of depression in adulthood, particularly in women."

Depression outcomes were measured as depressive symptoms in 4 studies. Among of the 2 studies that observed BMI change as a continuous variable, one study reported a significant association with depressive symptoms (P <.01). Of the 2 studies that utilized BMI categories to measure weight change, 1 found that there was no association of overweight status changes and depressive symptoms whereas the other study observed the opposite outcome; participants obesity was associated with more severe depressive symptoms (P <.001).


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