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Is there a link between obesity and depression?

Overweight girl standing on floor scales indoorsStudies have shown that obese people are about 25% more likely to experience a mood disorder such as depression compared with those who are not obese. Obesity can cause poor self-image, low self-esteem, and social isolation, which are all known contributors to depression. According to the CDC, 43% of adults with depression are obese. Furthermore, women with depression are more likely to be obese than women without depression. The CDC’s study showed moderate to severe depressive symptoms and antidepressant use associated with increased obesity.

A Downward Spiral

The emotional impact of being overweight and obese often leads to isolating behaviors. People affected by obesity often withdraw from social activities due to self-conscious feelings about their appearance and/or physical abilities. The idea of exercising and participating in group physical activities can be too intimidating. Additionally, being overweight causes health symptoms such as shortness of breath, aches, digestive problems, sleep trouble, and even chest pain.

Mounting low self-esteem and self-isolation can cause depression, which will only further contribute to a lack of desire to be healthy. Depression affects an individual’s motivation to eat healthy, exercise regularly, and prioritize other healthy living habits.

What can you do?

The first-line defense to obesity and depression should be exercise and stress reduction. Adults should aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, which shakes out to about 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Moderate exercise includes: brisk walking, light jogging, swimming laps, bicycling (10-12 miles/hour), hiking, tennis, and aerobics. Additionally, household chores such as heavy gardening, mowing the lawn, and cleaning (mopping, vacuuming, window washing) are examples of moderate exercise.

While exercise is one way to reduce stress, yoga and meditation are ideal ways to clear your mind and refocus on the important issues. Certain types of more vigorous yoga (vinyasa, hatha, and ashtanga) also count as moderate exercise. If yoga isn’t for you, consider trying deep breathing and calming phone apps. When exercising and stress relief are not helping enough, it may be time to contact your doctor or a mental-health provider.