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Obesity and depression: results from the longitudinal Northern Finland 1966 Birth Cohort Study

Abstract

Objective:

To examine the association between body size and depression in a longitudinal setting and to explore the connection between obesity and depression in young adults at the age of 31 years.

Design:

This study forms part of the longitudinal Northern Finland 1966 Birth Cohort Study (N=12 058). The follow-up studies were performed at 14 and 31 years. Data were collected by postal inquiry at 14 years and by postal inquiry and clinical examination at 31 years.

Subjects:

A total of 8451 subjects (4029 men and 4422 women) who gave a written informed consent and information on depression by three depression indicators at 31 years.

Measurements:

Body size at 14 (body mass index (BMI) and 31 (BMI and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR)) years and depression at 31 years by three different ways: depressive symptoms by the HSCL-25-depression questionnaire (HSCL-25), the use of antidepressants and self-reported physician-diagnosed depression.

Results:

Obesity at 14 years associated with depressive symptoms at 31 years; among male subjects using the cutoff point 2.01 in the HSCL-25 (adjusted odds ratio (OR) 1.97, 95% CI 1.06–3.68), among female subjects using the cutoff point 1.75 (adjusted OR 1.64, 95% CI 1.16–2.32). Female subjects who were obese both at baseline and follow-up had depressive symptoms relatively commonly (adjusted OR 1.40, 95% CI 1.06–1.85 at cutoff point 1.75); a similar association was not found among male subjects. The proportion of those who used antidepressants was 2.17-fold higher among female subjects who had gained weight compared to female subjects who had stayed normal-weighted (adjusted OR 2.17, 95% CI 1.28–3.68). In the cross-sectional analyses male subjects with abdominal obesity (WHR 85th percentile) had a 1.76-fold risk of depressive symptoms using the cutoff 2.01 in the HSCL-25 (adjusted OR 1.76, 95% CI 1.08–2.88). Abdominally obese male subjects had a 2.07-fold risk for physician-diagnosed depression (adjusted OR 2.07, 95% CI 1.23–3.47) and the proportion of those who used antidepressants was 2.63-fold higher among obese male subjects than among male subjects without abdominal obesity (adjusted OR 2.63, 95% CI 1.33–5.21). Abdominal obesity did not associate with depression in female subjects.

Conclusion:

Obesity in adolescence may be associated with later depression in young adulthood, abdominal obesity among male subjects may be closely related to concomitant depression, and being overweight/obese both in adolescence and adulthood may be a risk for depression among female subjects.

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Herva, A., Laitinen, J., Miettunen, J. et al. Obesity and depression: results from the longitudinal Northern Finland 1966 Birth Cohort Study. Int J Obes 30, 520–527 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ijo.0803174

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ijo.0803174

Keywords

  • depression
  • body mass index
  • waist-to-hip ratio
  • cohort study
  • longitudinal study

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