Association between obesity and psychiatric disorders in the US adult population

Gregory E. Simon, Michael Von Korff, Kathleen Saunders, Diana L Miglioretti, Paul K. Crane, Gerald Van Belle, Ronald C. Kessler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

911 Scopus citations


Background: Epidemiologic data suggest an association between obesity and depression, but findings vary across studies and suggest a stronger relationship in women than men. Objective: To evaluate the relationship between obesity and a range of mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders in the US general population. Design: Cross-sectional epidemiologic survey. Setting: Nationally representative sample of US adults. Participants: A total of 9125 respondents who provided complete data on psychiatric disorder, height, and weight. Response rate was 70.9%. Main Outcome Measures: Participants completed an in-person interview, including assessment of a range of mental disorders (assessed using the World Health Organization Composite International Diagnostic Interview) and height and weight (by self-report). Results: Obesity (defined as body mass index [calculated as weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters] of ≥ 30) was associated with significant increases in lifetime diagnosis of major depression (odds ratio [OR], 1.21; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.09-1.35), bipolar disorder (OR, 1.47; 95% CI, 1.12-1.93), and panic disorder or agoraphobia (OR, 1.27;95%CI, 1.01-1.60). Obesity was associated with significantly lower lifetime risk of substance use disorder (OR, 0.78; 95% CI, 0.65-0.93). Subgroup analyses found no difference in these associations between men and women, but the association between obesity and mood disorder was strongest in non-Hispanic whites (OR,1.38; 95% CI, 1.20-1.59) and college graduates (OR, 1.44; 95% CI, 1.14-1.81). Conclusions: Obesity is associated with an approximately 25% increase in odds of mood and anxiety disorders and an approximately 25% decrease in odds of substance use disorders. Variation across demographic groups suggests that social or cultural factors may moderate or mediate the association between obesity and mood disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)824-830
Number of pages7
JournalArchives of General Psychiatry
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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