A new study bears the surprising finding that with the exception of a deterioration in physical health, weight gain seems to improve mental well-being, especially in women.
German scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum München report their findings in the International Journal of Public Health and suggest the observations may provide valuable information for preventive strategies in the fight against obesity.
In the study, researchers found that while weight gain leads to deterioration in physical health, female study participants, however, experienced improved mental quality of life as their weight increased.
This result was observed even in women who were already overweight when the study began.
In the study, Professor Dr. Rolf Holle, doctoral student Michael Laxy and their team evaluated data from a long-term study on the association between body weight and health-related quality of life.
Over a period of seven years, the weight of more than 3,000 people was measured, the body-mass index (BMI) was calculated and the health-related quality of life was assessed on the basis of a standardized questionnaire.
“The results show that the influence of body weight on physical and mental health is complex,” Holle explains.
“However, the understanding of these associations is crucial for developing medically effective and cost-effective strategies to prevent and manage obesity.
The challenge is to prevent weight gain and its harmful health consequences, such as diabetes, while simultaneously structuring the programs in such a way that they counteract impairments in mental well-being.”
Researchers believe the new findings show that gender-specific approaches should be considered.
New approaches to obesity are necessary as the condition has become a global pandemic with around 60 percent of the adult population in Germany, and nearly 70 percent of the population in America classified as either overweight or obese.