The increasing prevalence of obesity among children and adults is becoming a public health crisis, according to background information in the article. Understanding the social and psychological conditions that are associated with obesity could help predict which children and adolescents are likely to become obese adults, helping physicians target treatment and prevention efforts. Previous evidence suggests that psychological disorders may be one factor associated with weight gain, but studies in the area have been limited, the authors report.
Sarah E. Anderson, M.S., Tufts University, Boston, and colleagues evaluated the association between anxiety disorders and depression and weight gain from childhood into adulthood. They analyzed existing data from 820 individuals (403 women and 417 men) from two counties in New York, who were assessed four times between 1983 and 2003. The participants ranged in age from 9 to 18 years at the beginning of the study, and were 28 to 40 years old at the most recent assessment. At each assessment, the researchers interviewed the individuals to determine whether they met clinical criteria for anxiety disorders or depression. The authors calculated BMI-for-age (BMI z scores) by dividing weight in kilograms by the square of height in meters and adjusting it for age and gender based on national reference data. BMI z scores correspond to growth chart percentiles and allow for tracking a child's relative weight through adolescence.
During the study, 310 participants (119 men and 191 women) had anxiety disorders and 148 (50 men and 98 women) were depressed. Women with anxiety disorders had significantly higher BMI z scores than women of the same age
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