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Troubled Minds Can Mean Wider Waistlines

Repeat episodes of anxiety, depression tied to weight gain, study finds

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 7, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Common mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, may increase a person's risk of obesity, and people with repeated episodes of these disorders are particularly at risk, British researchers say.

In the study, published in the Oct. 7 online edition of the BMJ, researchers analyzed data from four medical screenings of 4,363 British civil servants aged 35 to 55 conducted over 19 years (1985 to 2004). Each screening included assessment of mental health and measurement of height and weight.

People with a common mental health disorder at all three previous screenings were twice as likely to be obese at the final screening as those who had no mental health disorder symptoms at the previous screenings. Those who had more incidences of a common mental health disorder had the greatest risk of weight gain and obesity, the study authors noted.

Contrary to some previous research, this new study found little evidence that obesity leads to common mental health disorders in people with no pre-existing mental health problems, wrote Mika Kivimaki, of University College London, and colleagues. They said if further research confirms a link between common mental health disorders and obesity, it could lead to improved prevention and treatment.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines risk factors for overweight and obesity.

SOURCE: BMJ, news release, Oct. 6, 2009
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