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Behavior and Psychology

The associations of anxiety and depression symptoms with weight change and incident obesity: The HUNT Study



To investigate the associations of anxiety and depression symptoms with weight change and incident obesity in men and women.


We conducted a prospective cohort study using the Norwegian Nord-Trøndelag Health Study (HUNT).


The study cohort included 25 180 men and women, 19–55 years of age from the second survey of the HUNT (1995–1997).


Anxiety and depression symptoms were measured using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale. Weight change was determined for the study period of an average 11 years. Incident obesity was new-onset obesity classified as having a body mass index of 30.0 kg m2 at follow-up. The associations of anxiety or depression with weight change in kilograms (kg) was estimated using linear regression models. Risk ratios (RRs) for incident obesity associated with anxiety or depression were estimated using log-binomial regression.


In men, any anxiety or depression was associated with an average 0.81 kg (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.27–1.34) larger weight change after 11 years compared with those without such symptoms (mean weight change: 5.04 versus 4.24 kg). Women with any anxiety or depression had an average 0.98 kg (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.49–1.47) larger weight change compared with those without such symptoms (mean weight change: 5.02 versus 4.04 kg). Participants with any anxiety or depression had a significantly elevated cumulative incidence of obesity (men: RR 1.37, 95% CI 1.13–1.65; women: RR 1.18, 95% CI 1.00–1.40).


We found that symptoms of anxiety and depression were associated with larger weight change and an increased cumulative incidence of obesity in both men and women.

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The HUNT Study is a collaboration between HUNT Research Center (Faculty of Medicine, Norwegian University of Science and Technology NTNU), Nord-Trøndelag County Council and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. This study was supported by the Research Council of Norway (project no. 201895/V50) and Faculty of Medicine at NTNU. We gratefully acknowledge Professor David Gunnell of the University of Bristol for his comments on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to B Brumpton.

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Brumpton, B., Langhammer, A., Romundstad, P. et al. The associations of anxiety and depression symptoms with weight change and incident obesity: The HUNT Study. Int J Obes 37, 1268–1274 (2013).

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  • anxiety
  • depression
  • mental health
  • prospective
  • weight change

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