According to recent scientific studies, girls who experience depression and/or anxiety during childhood or early adolescence are far more likely to experience weight gain as adults. Researchers from Tufts University in Boston as well as Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute (both in New York City) came together to observe 820 men and women born between 1965 and 1974.
Diagnostic tests were used to determine levels of depression or anxiety, and Body Mass Index (BMI) was chronicled over time. BMI utilizes growth charts and projects relative weight per height over time. Scientists, in many cases, also interviewed parents and family members to ascertain facts about subjects’ emotional symptoms and physical health.
Though men’s BMI showed no calculable connection to anxiety or depression, the 403 females who took part in the study yielded some very interesting results.
In cases of both anxiety and depression, women who had endured such emotional disturbances in early adolescence showed a rise in BMI later in life. These BMI changes were more significant in women who had suffered with depression or anxiety as early teenagers than in those who first noticed these symptoms as adults.
These findings coincide with research that shows, by adulthood, women are twice as likely as men to experience depression. Symptoms of depression can include an increase in appetite, low activity levels, and an increase in sleepiness. This could account for rises in female BMI levels.
These studies suggest that mental health and physical health go hand in hand, especially for girls. It is important to educate our young people with appropriate and effective ways of dealing with emotional distress. If left to their own devices, kids are likely to find less healthy coping mechanisms, and these could turn into more pressing problems farther down the road.