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Depression and Anxiety Linked with Unhealthy Behaviors

manA new national study finds that individuals who suffer from depression or anxiety are also more likely to be obese or smoke.

Obesity and smoking are known risk factors for a variety of chronic diseases including diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular and pulmonary illnesses.

“The relationship between obesity and depression is plausible for several reasons,” said lead author Tara Strine, of the Division of Adult and Community Health in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“First, some patients who are overweight may be prone to depression because of societal attitudes towards obesity. Also, while depression can lead to decreased appetite and weight loss in some individuals, others eat more and gain weight.”

The study, in the March/April issue of the journal General Hospital Psychiatry, compiled data from more than 200,000 adults in 38 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. All participated in the 2006 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a large telephone survey that monitors the prevalence of key health behaviors.

The survey asked respondents if they were currently depressed or had ever had a diagnosis of depression or anxiety. Other questions addressed smoking habits, weight, physical activity and alcohol consumption.

About 8.7 percent of the respondents had current depression, 15.7 percent had a previous depression diagnosis and 11.3 percent had had an anxiety diagnosis at some time.

People with current depression or a previous diagnosis of depression were 60 percent more likely to be obese and twice as likely to smoke as those who were not depressed, the research found. Those with an anxiety disorder were 30 percent more likely to be obese and twice as likely to smoke as those without anxiety were. The study also said that those with depression and anxiety were more likely to be physically inactive and to be binge or heavy drinkers.

“Chronic diseases are risk factors for depression, so [the health care system] must be attuned to recognizing and treating the depression that often coexists with such chronic diseases,” Strine said.

“This is an important and well-done study that will hopefully reach a large audience and continue to raise awareness,” said Evette Joy Ludman, Ph.D., of Seattle-based Group Health Cooperative.

“Although health care providers have increasingly become aware of the link between chronic conditions such as diabetes and depression and the links between smoking and mood disorders, I think they are only now beginning to be aware of the broader link between depression, obesity and unhealthful behaviors,” Ludman said.

Source: Health Behavior News Service

Depression and Anxiety Linked with Unhealthy Behaviors

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Depression and Anxiety Linked with Unhealthy Behaviors. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 18, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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