Focus on Depression: Feeling depressed may weigh on women

A Tulane University study of women working in Greater New Orleans area public schools found that symptoms of depression were linked to behaviors that can lead to overweight and obesity.

“This study adds to growing evidence of the link between depressive symptoms and weight in women,” says Carolyn Johnson, director of the Tulane Prevention Research Center and an author of the study. The study used data collected from 743 women in 22 Jefferson Parish schools in fall 2006 from a project called ACTION, a wellness program designed to address eating and physical activity barriers among adult school personnel.

The Tulane Prevention Research Center study found that women who reported more depression symptoms were less likely to feel confident in their ability to exercise. (Photo by Masterfile)

The Tulane Prevention Research Center study found that women who reported more depression symptoms were less likely to feel confident in their ability to exercise.
(Photo by Masterfile)

The survey asked about different components of exercise and eating behavior, such as uncontrolled eating, emotional eating and cognitive restraint (a stable ability to limit food intake). The researchers calculated the body mass index (BMI) of each woman. Adults are considered overweight if they have a BMI of 25 or greater and obese if they have a BMI of 30 or greater.

Women who reported greater symptoms of depression said they engaged in more emotional eating, which was linked to a higher BMI. Women who reported more depression symptoms also were less likely to feel confident in their ability to exercise.

The authors noted that the study’s women had increased depressive symptoms compared to women in other national studies – perhaps because women were affected by Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans just one year prior to the study.

“Given the high rates of both depression and obesity in women, there is an urgent need for new strategies to address these co-occuring health issues,” says Gretchen Clum, associate professor of global community health and behavioral sciences and lead author of the study.

To properly address obesity and overweight, the study’s authors suggest policies and programs that take into account a person’s depressive symptoms, emotional eating, and their confidence in being able to eat healthy and engage in physical activity.

The ACTION paper on depressive symptoms was e-published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine in August 2013.

Naomi King Englar (Originally published in the Tulane New Wave)

Next in the Depression series: Major depressive disorder target of $13 Tulane study

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About Tulane University SPHTM

Tulane's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine is the oldest school of public health in the country and the only American school of tropical medicine. Our mission is to advance public health knowledge, promote health and well-being, and prevent disease, disability, and premature mortality. This is accomplished through academic excellence in education of public health professionals, rigorous scientific research of public health problems, creative partnerships to advance the practice of public health, and innovative service to the local, national, and international public health community.
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One Response to Focus on Depression: Feeling depressed may weigh on women

  1. Pingback: Focus on Depression: Depression is literally a heartbreaker for older men | Global Health Spring/Summer 2014

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