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January 8, 2004
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Obesity and depression linked

Dr. Tanis Adey
Photo by HSIMS
Dr. Tanis Adey
By Sharon Gray
As if it weren’t bad enough being overweight, now research shows that depression is at least two times greater among obese individuals.

Dr. Tanis Adey, Psychiatry, said that there is a growing trend of obesity in Canada, and it is associated with other diseases such as hypertension, Type 2 diabetes mellitus and ischemic heart disease. But while it is generally accepted by most health care professionals that there is an association between obesity and depression, she explained that this has not been consistently substantiated in well-designed studies. So with co-investigators Caroline McCallum, Tahmir El-Tahan, Yvonne Tobin and Dr. Proton Rahman, a new study was designed to measure the degree of depression among obese subjects.

“We had 837 subjects who were enrolled in an ongoing population based obesity study at Newfound Genomics. Patients were categorized by degree of obesity ranging from pre-obese (BMI 25 to 30) to those morbidly obese (BMI greater than 45),” she said. “We noted a 2.5 fold increased incidence of depression in obese individuals. This increased risk of depression was independent of other illness. Thus the increased risk of depression among obese individuals cannot, for example, be solely explained by the co-existence of coronary heart disease.”

Numerous instant calculators of body mass index (BMI) are readily available on the Web, but if you want to figure it out the old-fashioned way the pounds/inches BMI formula is: Your weight (in pounds) times 704.5 divided by your height (in inches) times your height in inches. A 5 ft. 4 inch female weighing 120 pounds at age 30 has a healthy weight; that same woman at 160 pounds is overweight and at 240 pounds is severely obese.

To determine who in the study was depressed, Dr. Adey’s group relied on a self reported history of depression coupled with concurrent antidepressant use. Those taking antidepressants for other reasons were excluded from the study.

Dr. Adey said this study does not necessarily implicate the specific factors contributing to the association between obesity and depression. “However, by formally highlighting its existence and magnitude, we have a greater awareness of the problem. Further work now needs to be done in clarifying the reasons for this association.”

The health risks of obesity include twice the incidence of high blood pressure and stroke, four times the incidence of diabetes, twice the incidence of coronary heart disease in men under 45, and an association with an increased risk of breast cancer (after menopause), womb cancer, kidney cancer and gall bladder disease.


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Lyle Wetsch
Dr. Axel Meisen
Anne Marie Hynes (R) with a student
Andrew Draskoy
Dr. Tanis Adey
Next issue: January 22, 2003

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