WASHINGTON: Obesity is a risk factor for depressive symptoms, especially among some adolescent girls.
"This is important because depressive symptoms are considered a precursor to major depression," said Kim Boutelle, associate professor of paediatrics and psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).
According to the Centre for Disease and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. The prevalence of obesity among adolescents aged 12 to 19 years increased from 5 per cent to 18.1 per cent in 2008.
Similarly, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an annual survey sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, found that two million youths aged 12 to 17 experienced at least one major depressive episode in 2007.
Knowing that the teenage years are often a tumultuous period in a young person's life, Boutelle and her colleagues set out to determine whether obesity contributes to the development of depression among youth.
This is in contrast to the well-documented conclusion that depression increases the risk of obesity.
Using a structured psychiatric interview test, the Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia for School-Age Children (K-SADS), assessors gathered responses from almost 500 girls between the ages of 13 and 16 years, of various ethnicities.
To receive a diagnosis of depression, the girls had to report the presence and severity of at least five symptoms.
At each of four yearly assessments, the girls were weighed and measured. Data from the interviews indicated that obese status was associated with an increase in depressive symptoms, but not major depression, said a university release.
"Based on our findings, I would encourage parents, teachers and physicians to monitor overweight and obese girls for depressive symptoms, and refer them for evaluation if they are concerned," said Boutelle.
These findings appeared in the May issue of Health Psychology.
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