Is Weight Status a Risk Factor for Depression in Young Adult Females?




Landon, Margaret
Bernbaum, Shannon
Rice, Kelsey
Whitney, Steven
Hartos, Jessica


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Introduction: Depression and obesity are prevalent and growing in the general population, and this poses a serious concern for the healthcare system (1,2). An association between depression and obesity has been demonstrated in the general population (3,4,5,6), but there has been little research on the association in young females. The purpose of this study was to determine if weight status is a risk factor for depression in females aged 18-24. Methods: This cross-sectional study used 2014 BRFSS data on females aged 18-24 from Maine, Missouri, Montana, and Vermont. Multiple logistic regression analysis was used to determine the relationship between weight status and depression while controlling for ethnicity/race, marital status, education level, employment status, and income level. Results: Most of the participants reported they had never received a diagnosis of depression or dysthymia in their lifetime (74-76%), and the majority reported they were not overweight or obese (58-66%). After controlling for psychosocial and demographic factors, depression was significantly related to weight status (large effect sizes) in Maine and Missouri. Conclusions: Weight status was related to depression in two of four states in young adult females. These findings may be generalizable to primary care, but the association may be different in specialty practice. A temporal relationship between weight status and depression could not be determined from the cross- sectional data. It is recommended that practitioners screen for depression criteria in overweight and obese female young adults only if the patients present with signs and symptoms of depression.