Obesity causes depression even if there are no associated health problems, a new study has found.
Jointly led by the University of Exeter and the University of South Australia, a genetic analysis found that simply having a higher than average body mass index can cause depression.
According to the researchers, this is a result of the psychological impact of being overweight.
The study used data from the UK Biobank belonging to 48,000 people with depression and compared it to more than 290,000 people without depression.
The link between both health conditions was investigated by separating the psychological component of obesity from related health problems.
The results were verified using data from the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, which delivered the same conclusion.
Dr Jessical Tyrrell, lecturer at the University of Exeter Medical School, said the study has helped to clarify the confusion over whether ‘obesity causes depression or vice-versa, and also whether it’s being overweight in itself or the associated health problems that can cause depression.’
She added: ‘Our robust genetic analysis concludes that the psychological impact of being obese is likely to cause depression. This is important to help target efforts to reduce depression, which makes it much harder for people to adopt healthy lifestyle habits.’
Earlier this year, Public Health England called on GPs to regularly record patients’ BMI as part of its long-term plan to combat adult obesity.