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Obesity Linked to Mood Disorders

More Psychiatric Disorders, Less Substance Abuse in Obese People
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 5, 2006 -- Obese people are 25% more likely to suffer mood and anxiety disorders -- and 25% less likely to suffer substance abuse disorders -- than people who aren't obese.

That finding is based on analysis of data from a nationally representative survey of 9,125 U.S. adults. Gregory E. Simon, MD, MPH, of Seattle's Group Health Cooperative, and colleagues report their results in the July issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

What the study does not say is whether obesityobesity gives rise to psychiatric disorders -- or whether psychiatric disorders make it more likely a person will be obese.

Or, as Simon and colleagues write: "Nearly one-quarter of the cases of obesity in the general population are attributable to the association with mood disorder. It is equally correct to state that more than one-fifth of cases of mood disorder in the general population are attributable to the association with obesity."

The survey is based on in-home interviews with study participants, conducted between February 2001 and February 2003.

The survey shows that, compared with people who are not obese, obese people are:

  • 21% more likely to suffer major depressiondepression
  • 47% more likely to suffer bipolar disorderbipolar disorder
  • 27% more likely to suffer panic disorder or fear of open places
  • 22% less likely to suffer substance use disorders.

There were no significant differences between obese men and obese women.

However, the link between obesity and mood disorders was particularly strong for non-Hispanic whites and for college graduates.

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