Women, Depression and Obesity: What's Eating You?

Women, Depression and Obesity: What's Eating You?

SWHR holds congressional briefing exploring links between obesity and depression

Washington, DC (December 14, 2010) — The Society for Women’s viagra Research (SWHR) presented the topical Capitol Hill briefing, Holiday Blues: Women, Depression and Obesity on Thursday, December 9, which featured four panelists detailing the links between depression and obesity.

Obesity is the newest cheap cialis threat due in large part to American’s sedentary lifestyle and poor food choices. Co-morbidities of obesity include depression, heart disease, stroke, type II diabetes, hypertension, some cancers, osteoporosis and more. Sex differences in obesity play a role in fat distribution, higher financial burden on women, and incidence rates. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2008 33.2% of females were obese, with a body-mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher.

Belinda Needham, PhD, Assistant Professor and Director of Graduate Studies at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, spoke to the effects of obesity and depression, “17% of women will experience serious depression; females are two times as likely to be depressed as males, and women gain weight faster than men.” Needham presented findings from a community study to gauge the effects of obesity on depression and discovered women had higher BMIs at the start of the study and ended up larger than men at the end of the study. She concluded that depression led to weight gain and not the other way around.

“Elevated depressive symptoms affect over 25% of adolescents, and adolescent girls with elevated depressive symptoms are 2.5 times more likely to develop obesity at a later point in time compared to girls without depressive symptoms,” said Lauren B. Shomaker, PhD, Adjunct Scientist in the Unit on Growth and Obesity, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. “Depressive symptoms lead to an increase in stress-induced eating, which results in obesity. And depression is theorized to alter physical fitness by a loss of pleasure in previously enjoyed physical activities.”

Fortunately, there are researchers leading studies to reverse this trend. Jay Breines, Executive Director, Holyoke Health Center, launched a pilot program at his health center in Holyoke, Mass. to combat obesity and teach proper nutrition and exercise habits to high-risk populations. His program integrated physicians, dentists, nurses, outreach workers, and promotoras among many others to provide a full care team for the participants to fight obesity and stop depression from taking hold. Breines closed with an advisory message to fellow community health organizers battling obesity, “We must engage at the community level to save money on our healthcare system.”

Christine Ferguson, Director, STOP Obesity Alliance and Research Professor, George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, outlined the obesity cost burden. Ferguson’s research team found the overall annual costs of being obese are $4879 for an obese woman and $2646 for an obese man. “There is a real, tangible economic impact for those women who are obese in our society,” said Ferguson. Obese women are paid less than average-weight women whereas obese men are paid the same as average-weight men. This can be partly attributed to social stigmatization and the already present gender wage gap.

“The key to obesity policy is to relate more to the health aspect, and less the aesthetic,” said Ferguson. Focusing on health versus looks may decrease depression and boost self-esteem. We need to support programs that target adolescents and teach healthy lifestyle habits in order to stave off depression as well as obesity.

Depression may lead to weight gain and vice versa, thus treatment for either should target both mind and body. Properly training physicians on weight-related issues, providing health and nutrition centers in high-risk communities, and focusing on the health aspects of obesity are just a few more ways to fight the fat and, in turn, defeat depression this holiday season and beyond.


For more information on the Society for Women’s Health Research please contact Rachel Griffith at 202-496-5001 or Rachel@swhr.org.