It is already known that obesity can cause negative physical consequences like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, but a new study shows that being overweight also has psychological implications. Scientists have found that having 10 kilograms of excess body fat increases the risk of depression by 17%. Actually, the more fat, the greater the probability of developing depression. According to the researchers, this is yet another reason for taking actions against the obesity epidemic as almost 40% of the world’s adult population is overweight.
The study concludes that the location of the fat on the body is not playing a role in the risk of depression. Technically, it turns out that there is no direct biological effect, but rather a psychological consequence. If the reasons were of biological nature, then the fat located in the central parts of the body would have increased the risk the most, as it should have the most damaging effects on the body.
“As it appears to be the psychological consequences of obesity, such as a negative body image and low self-esteem that is the main driving force behind the increased risk of depression, society’s efforts to combat obesity must not stigmatise, as this will probably increase the risk of depression even further. It is important to bear this in mind so we can avoid doing more harm than good in the effort to curb the obesity epidemic,” says Dr. Søren Dinesen Østergaard – a professor at the Department of Clinical Medicine at Aarhus University in Denmark.
The study which was conducted by researchers from Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital was published in the journal Translational Psychiatry. They based the findings on the analysis of two large genetic data sets: the UK Biobank, which contains data on the correlation between genetic variants and physical measurements (including body fat mass distributed around parts of the body); and the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, which contains information on the correlation between genetic variants and depression.