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Is there a link between childhood obesity and depression?

There is a link between childhood obesity and depression. Data from the government's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) indicate a comorbid depression among 20 percent to 30 percent of adolescents with a body mass index (BMI) in the top 5 percent compared with 4 percent to 8 percent in the general population.

Untreated depression can be both the cause and effect of obesity. Evidence from the Swedish Obese Subjects (SOS) study indicates that clinically significant depression is three to four times higher in severely obese individuals than in similar non-obese individuals. "Depression on a level indicating psychiatric morbidity was more often seen in the obese," the authors, Professor Marianne Sullivan and her team from Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Sweden, wrote in a journal article. They reported that the depression scores for obese people were as bad as, or worse than, those for patients with chronic pain.

Additionally, a University of Minnesota study reveals that children who were teased about being overweight were more likely to have poor body image, low self-esteem and symptoms of depression. The study found that 26 percent of teens who were teased at school and home reported they had considered suicide, and 9 percent had attempted it.

"As a practicing child psychiatrist, I see a clear association between obesity and depression and anxiety disorders among children and teens," notes David Fassler, MD, an American Psychiatric Association (APA) Trustee and child and adolescent psychiatrist from Burlington, Vermont.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.