Invited Adress: Presidential Program─Myles S. Faith, PhD, Obesity–Depression Associations in the Population: Research and Clinical Implications

CE Credit: 1

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Length: 50 minutes

Session part of the Presidential Theme: Obesity. Obesity may lead to depression or be one of its consequences. To the extent that these disorders are linked, this may pose important barriers to obesity treatment and prevention. Against this background, the aims of this presentation are three-fold: (1) Summarize the state-of-evidence for the prospective associations among obesity and depression in population-based studies; (2) Review potential mechanisms underlying the association; and (3) Identify research and clinical implications for obesity treatment and prevention. Regarding aim 1, current evidence supports obesity-to-depression prospective associations with less support for depression-to-obesity associations. Inconsistent findings across studies may reflect considerable methodological heterogeneity across studies – including how obesity and depression were assessed. For example, the number of covariates modeled across studies varied from 2 to 13, which may have an enormous impact on findings. Additionally, only 12% of studies used direct (not reported) measures of weight/height coupled with an assessment of depression by clinical interview. Despite the heterogeneous literature, the data still support prospective associations. Regarding aim 2, potential mechanisms by which obesity may promote depression include weight teasing and other forms of stigma, functional impairment, and physiological factors. Also, certain antidepressant medications are associated with significant weight gain. Regarding aim 3, health care providers should be alert to the possibility of depression in patients with obesity and screen for depressive symptoms appropriately. This is true for pediatric and adult populations. Efforts to treat or prevent obesity may have secondary benefits for mental health that warrant greater research.

Learning Objective 1
Determine if obesity is prospectively associated with depression in population-based studies with children and adults.

Learning Objective 2
Identify two potential mechanisms by which obesity may cause depression.

Learning Objective 3

Kimberly A. Driscoll, PhD; Myles S. Faith, PhD