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Obesity and psychological distress

Steptoe, A; Frank, P; (2023) Obesity and psychological distress. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences , 378 (1888) , Article 20220225. 10.1098/rstb.2022.0225. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

The relationship between high body weight and mental health has been studied for several decades. Improvements in the quality of epidemiological, mechanistic and psychological research have brought greater consistency to our understanding of the links. Large-scale population-based epidemiological research has established that high body weight is associated with poorer mental health, particularly depression and subclinical depressive symptoms. There is some evidence for bidirectional relationships, but the most convincing findings are that greater body weight leads to psychological distress rather than the reverse. Particular symptoms of depression and distress may be specifically related to greater body weight. The psychological stress induced by weight stigma and discrimination contributes to psychological distress, and may in turn handicap efforts at weight control. Heightened systemic inflammation and dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis are biological mechanisms that mediate in part the relationship of greater body weight with poorer mental health. Changing negative societal attitudes to high body weights would improve the wellbeing of people living with obesity, and promote more effective weight-inclusive attitudes and behaviours in society at large, particularly in healthcare settings. This article is part of a discussion meeting issue 'Causes of obesity: theories, conjectures and evidence (Part II)'.

Type: Article
Title: Obesity and psychological distress
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2022.0225
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2022.0225
Language: English
Additional information: © 2023 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.
Keywords: adiposity, depression, discrimination, inflammation, stigma, symptomatology, Humans, Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System, Pituitary-Adrenal System, Obesity, Psychological Distress, Mental Health
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Division of Psychiatry
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health > Behavioural Science and Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Division of Psychiatry > Mental Health of Older People
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10177235
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