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Obesity Linked to Depression, Bipolar Disease in Study

Nationally representative group of participants shows link is strongest in whites and college graduates

THURSDAY, July 6 (HealthDay News) -- Obesity is associated with about a 25 percent higher risk of psychiatric disorders, including depression and bipolar disorder, compared with non-obese patients, according to a report in the July issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Gregory E. Simon, M.D., M.P.H., from the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, and colleagues led a countrywide study of obesity and psychiatric disorders involving more than 300 trained interviewers and 9,125 respondents. In-person interviews were conducted according to the World Health Organization Composite International Diagnostic Interview to assess the presence of mental disorders, and height and weight measurements were self-reported.

Obesity, defined as a body mass index of 30 or higher, was associated with an increased risk for major depression (odds ratio, 1.21), bipolar disorder (OR, 1.47), and panic disorder or agoraphobia (OR, 1.27); and a lower lifetime risk of substance use disorder (OR, 0.78). While there was no difference between men and women, whites and college graduates had the strongest association.

"We conclude that obesity is meaningfully associated with a range of common mood and anxiety disorders in the general U.S. population," the authors write. "Variation across demographic groups suggests that social or cultural factors may moderate or mediate the association between obesity and mood disorder."

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