Depression and obesity are globally prevalent diseases that place substantial burdens on personal well-being and public health. According to World Health Organization criteria, overweight and obesity are defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of ≥25 kg/m2 and ≥30 kg/m2, respectively. Depression has a 20% lifetime prevalence, and symptoms can vary widely, impacting psychological, physical and social aspects of everyday life. Given the global prevalence of obesity and depression it is not surprising that the two can co-occur, but the relationship appears to be more complex. A growing body of literature describes the bidirectional relationship between the two, where the presence of obesity may increase the risk for developing depression, and vice versa.
Several behavioural and psychological factors feature in the interplay between depression and obesity. People living with obesity who encounter regular weight shaming and stigmatization can experience internalized weight bias, which negatively affects the individual’s mental state and might ultimately lead to depression. Shared risk factors for obesity and depression have also been identified and include poor eating habits, physical inactivity, irregular sleeping patterns and substance abuse.
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