Overweight children 4 times more likely to be depressed as adults, study finds

AMSTERDAM — Children who are overweight are as much as four times more likely to battle depression as adults, a new study finds.

Researchers from the VU Medical Center in Amsterdam say that kids face an increased risk if they’re obese during one of two points of childhood, while those who are heavy continuously as a child into adulthood face a quadrupled risk of depression.

Young boy, sad
A new study finds that children who are overweight at age 8 or age 13 are three times more likely to be depressed as adults.

“Our findings suggest that some of the underlying mechanisms linking overweight or obesity to depression stem from childhood. A shared genetic risk or low self-esteem, which is frequently associated with those who do not conform to the ideal body type, could be responsible,” the authors say in a press release.

The research team examined participants from a decades-old study that included people born between 1907 and 1935 who lived in Reykjavik, Iceland in 1967. Any relationship between those who were overweight during childhood and experienced depression was recorded, and the researchers looked to determine if depressive symptoms showed more of a correlation in people who were always obese versus people who only battled weight problems as adults.

Then from 2002 to 2006, participants still alive were invited to join another study that looked at people at least 75 years old. The team found that people who were obese at 8 years old or 13 years old were four times more likely to suffer from lifetime major depressive order, as opposed to kids who only became overweight as adults.

The discovery showed the researchers that being heavy-set during childhood was a better predictor of depression than people who weren’t overweight until after adulthood.

“Given the rise in adolescents’ obesity and greater influence of social media on body image, understanding the associations between childhood obesity and depression is critical,” the authors write.

A BMI between 25 and 29.9 was considered overweight. The researchers acknowledge that because the study was based on observation, a cause-and-effect for the results was not determined.

The results of the study were being presented this weekend at the 24th European Congress on Obesity.


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