Depression is one of the biggest barriers to weight loss, new research finds.
Carrying an extra 20 pounds in weight increases the risk of depression by 17 percent, the study found.
The more fat someone carries, the greater the chance they will experience depression.
In this case, depression is driven by low self-esteem and a poor body image.
Since depression involves a loss of motivation and disinterest in life, it makes it much harder for overweight people who are depressed to lose weight.
Dr Søren Dinesen Østergaard, study co-author, said:
“Our study also indicated that the location of the fat on the body makes no difference to the risk of depression.
This suggests that it is the psychological consequences of being overweight or obese which lead to the increased risk of depression, and not the direct biological effect of the fat.”
The conclusions come from an analysis of over three-quarters of a million people, sourced partly from the UK biobank.
The biobank is a long-term project that tracks the health and well-being of volunteers in the UK.
The results suggest that it is obesity that leads to depression, Dr Østergaard said:
“As it appears to be the psychological consequences of obesity, such as a negative body image and low self-esteem that is the main driving force behind the increased risk of depression, society’s efforts to combat obesity must not stigmatise, as this will probably increase the risk of depression even further.
It is important to bear this in mind so we can avoid doing more harm than good in the effort to curb the obesity epidemic.”
Around 40 percent of the world’s population is overweight, Dr Østergaard said.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Translational Psychiatry (Speed et al., 2019).