UTSPH researchers identify relationship between obesity and depression in teens

Researchers have previously struggled to identify the relationship between obesity and depression in teens. New research from The University of Texas School of Public Health shows that obese teens are not more likely to become depressed, but depressed teens are more likely to become obese. The research article ran online in Psychological Medicine.

Principal investigator Robert Roberts, PhD, professor in the division of Health Promotion and Behavioral Science at the UT School of Public Health said that while obesity and depression are both major public health problems among adolescents aged 11 to 17, the actual link between the two has been unresolved in this age group.

It is the first to examine reciprocal effects between depression and adolescent weight, examining DSM-IV mood disorders, major depression and symptoms of depression.

Roberts and colleague Hao Duong, MD, PhD, Centers for Disease Control Vietnam, completed a study assessing more than 3,100 Houston teens for height and weight along with any DSM-IV mood disorder, major depression, and symptoms of depression. They followed up again a year later.

“In analyzing the data, we found that there was no evidence of reciprocal effects between weight and depression,” Roberts said.

Teens that were overweight or obese weren’t predicted to have major depression or symptoms. Those adolescents who had a mood disorder had more than a two-fold increased risk of being obese. Males in particular were affected as they had a six-fold increased obesity risk.

Female teens with depressive symptoms had a marginally increased risk of being overweight but not obese.

This study was funded by the National Institutes for Health and the Michael and Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living.