- Overweight and obesity could be a predictor of subsequent depression in lifetime.
- Carrying excess weight during childhood (8 to 13 years) tripled the risk of depression.
- Being overweight during childhood and adulthood quadrupled the depression risk.
Being overweight during childhood may increase the lifetime risk of depression, finds a new study by a research team from the Deborah Gibson-Smith from VU University Medical Center, Netherlands.
The study presented at the European Congress on Obesity found that being overweight at the age of eight or 13 can triple the risk of major depression.
‘Being overweight at age 8 or 13 was associated with more than triple the risk of developing major depression in adulthood.’
Studies have shown that obesity can increase the risk of depression. But, very few have looked at the influence of childhood obesity or age-related effect of obesity on depression.
Relationship Between Being Overweight in Childhood and Depression Risk
The research team investigated the link between being overweight in childhood and depression risk. The study involved 889 participants from the population-based AGES (Age, Gene/Environment Susceptibility)-Reykjavik Study (2002-06), which examined people born between 1907-35 and living in Reykjavik, Iceland in 1967.
The team hypothesized whether the detrimental effect of excess weight on mental health is due to life-long obesity or the result of being overweight in adulthood.
Between 2002 and 2006, a random sample of surviving participants from the Reykjavik study were invited to join the AGES study. The average age of the participant was 75 years.
The research team assessed whether the participants had current depressive symptoms or had had a depressive disorder in the past. Information about the height and weight of the participants between eight and 13 years was obtained from school records and mid-life (50 years) data collection done as part of the Reykjavik study.
A person is considered overweight if the body mass index (BMI) is between 25 and 29.9. During the study, 39 participants were diagnosed with depression.
The research team adjusted two factors (age and depression) to find the link between overweight and depression. The analysis revealed that overweight during childhood is a strong predictor of depression than being overweight in mid-life.
Being overweight or obese between eight and 13 years of age increased the risk of lifetime major depressive disorder.
The research team also found that being overweight during childhood and carrying excess weight in adulthood quadrupled the chance of developing depression compared to only being overweight as an adult.
The findings of the study add evidence to the earlier studies that report an increased risk of depression in young people who are obese.
"Our findings suggest that some of the underlying mechanisms linking overweight or obesity to depression stem from childhood. A shared genetic risk or low self-esteem, which is frequently associated with those who do not conform to the ideal body type, could be responsible," said the authors.
"Given the rise in adolescents' obesity and greater influence of social media on body image, understanding the associations between childhood obesity and depression is critical," they added.
Facts on Childhood Obesity
- Globally, 42 million children are overweight or obese
- Majority of the overweight and obese children live in developing countries
- More than one in three children are overweight in the US
- One in five children between two and 19 years are obese
- Childhood obesity increases the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and cancer in adulthood
- Facts and figures on childhood obesity - (http://www.who.int/end-childhood-obesity/facts/en)