Stress can make you fat - that's what a new-fangled study has found on the link between unnecessary anxiety and weight.
The study looked at the relationship between weight gain and multiple types of stress-job-related demands, difficulty paying bills, strained family relationships, depression or anxiety disorder-in the U.S. population.
"Today's economy is stressing people out, and stress has been linked to a number of illnesses -such as heart disease, high blood pressure and increased risk for cancer. This study shows that stress is also linked to weight gain," according to Jason Block, M.D., M.P.H., who conducted the research as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholar(r) at Harvard University.
Women's waistlines are affected by more types of stress. In addition to weight gain associated with financial problems or a difficult job, women also added pounds when grappling with strained family relationships and feeling limited by life's circumstances.
For men, the numbers on the scale did not go up when facing difficult family relationships or feeling constrained by life circumstances. Among men, lack of decision authority at work and lack of skill discretion was associated with greater weight gain. Skill discretion can be defined as the ability to learn new skills on the job and to perform interesting job duties.
Overall, this study found that people who reported increased psychological stress gained more weight if they already had higher body mass indexes (BMI). A similar weight-gain pattern was not found among lower-weight people who were dealing with the same types of stress, according to the study.
When coping with life's stressful periods, individuals may change their eating behaviours, which can lead to changes in weight. Stress-induced weight gain is influenced by a person's gender, what types of foods people eat when they change their eating behaviours, and whether the person is already overweight or obese.
These factors may cause some people to gain more weight under stressful circumstances, while others may gain less weight or even lose weight when stressed.
The study appears in the July 15 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.