Women more likely to suffer from depression due to obesity than men

Andrew Spence                                                       Tuesday

According to the researchers, this is a result of the psychological impact of being overweight.

Now, in the largest study of its kind, experts say having genetic variants linked to a high body mass index (BMI) can lead to depression, with a stronger effect in women than men.

Researchers looked at UK Biobank data from more than 48,000 people with depression, comparing them with a control group of more than 290,000 people born between 1938 and 1971, who provided medical and genetic information.

There were 73 genetic variants studied over this period and it showed 49,000 participants suffered from depression.

The findings, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, showed that the genes associated with high BMI and a low risk of disease were were just as strongly associated with depression as the genes associated with higher BMI and diabetes, suggesting that it is the psychological impact of being overweight, rather than obesity-related illnesses that cause depression.

Previous reports have suggested that while obesity has doubled in the United Kingdom since 1990s, number of people using anti-depressants tripled.

Overall, the team found that people with a higher BMI were more likely to be depressed.

At the other ends of the BMI spectrum, very thin men are more prone to depression than men of normal weight or very thin women.

The results were verified using data from the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, which delivered the same conclusion. Genetics are available for all individuals.

Professor Hypponen said the researchers "separated the psychological component of obesity" by analysing the prevalence of genes which were associated with higher BMIs, but not other weight-related health conditions, such as diabetes, as well as those associated with higher BMIs and weight-related conditions. We've long known there's a link between the two, yet it's unclear whether obesity causes depression or vice-versa, and also whether it's being overweight in itself or the associated health problems that can cause depression.

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