She said body image may play a key role in why women who are obese at 27 are more likely to report depression three years later.
"Body image is particularly important for women. There seems to be a transfer that when women feel bad they eat more. That can have devastating effects emotionally and physically. But for men experiencing obesity, the reverse is true, and obesity seems to be protective against depression. It's the so-called 'jolly fat man' theory, which suggests that overweight people are actually happier."
The link between obesity at 27 and subsequent depression at 30 among women may develop as a result of individuals self-medicating themselves.
"People who feel more emotionally down may use alcohol for a quick lift or a short-term boost. The two conditions may be connected by an underlying stress mechanism. Stress is linked to depression, so women under stress potentially eat and drink more," she said.
The study also showed that income has a significant effect on obesity at age 24 and those with higher incomes had a lower risk for weight problem.
McCarty said that finding is not surprising since many of the least nutritional items are inexpensive, and low income areas do not have the same sources of fresh fruits and vegetables that more affluent ones have.
"It costs more to eat well," she said.
McCarty believes that intervention programs are needed and can play a key role in reducing the growing public health burden caused by these conditions.
"Early prevention is important because the sooner we start the more impact we can have. Interventions should include stress management so we can provide young people with tools to cope with situations and emotions. We also nee
|Contact: Joel Schwarz|
University of Washington