Amidst the concern over medical complications associated with weight gain and obesity, new research suggests carrying extra weight is also linked to anxiety and depression.

A new Australian study has found middle-aged Australians carrying excess weight are more likely to be anxious and depressed than their healthy weight counterparts.

Queensland-based researchers collected data on the physical and mental health of more than 1,200 volunteers, grouping them according to their weight and mental health.

Obese participants, who were aged 45 to 54 years, were more likely to report that emotional problems had affected their work or social activities, and were less likely to have felt calm and peaceful in the month prior to the study, compared with normal weight and overweight participants.

The research comes as healht care providers launch Australia’s Healthy Weight Week (January 23-30), to promote how being a healthy weight helps people live life to the full.

Dietitians Association of Australia Spokesperson Lisa Renn said carrying too much weight affects physical health and poorer health is linked with anxiety, depression and lower levels of wellbeing.

“If you’re carrying too much weight, odds on you’re more anxious or depressed than you need to be. Losing this weight is associated with a better quality of life, improved mood, better self-esteem, and a more positive attitude to life.

“So eating better food and being active will help you feel healthy and happy,” said Renn.

She said a 5-10 per cent reduction in weight from a baseline starting weight can make all the difference.

‘If you’re 100kg, losing 5-10kg will pay off. So for a healthier, happier 2011 kick-start the year with some small changes, which will add up over time,’ said Renn.

The Dietitians Association of Australia’s tips for “feeling tops”:

– Start with the right fuel. A healthy breakfast can help you think clearer, concentrate better and feel more energetic. It will also make you less likely to overeat later in the day.

– Move to feel good. Moving is a trigger for your body to release feel-good hormones (endorphins). The more you move the better you will feel, so look for every opportunity to get more active.

– Become a “mindful eater”. Before reaching for food, think about whether you’re really hungry – or eating for another reason. And slow down while you’re eating. Studies suggest people who eat too quickly have a greater risk of being overweight.

– Get fishy. Healthy fats, such as those found in oily fish (like salmon, tuna and mackerel), grains and some plant oils (such as sunflower and safflower oil) may improve mood.

– Recruit a support team. Find at least one person (friend, family member, work colleague, health professional) who will support and cheer you on.

Source: Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA)