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The psychological legacy of past obesity and early mortality: evidence from two longitudinal studies

Putra, I Gusti Ngurah Edi; Daly, Michael; Sutin, Angelina; Steptoe, Andrew; Robinson, Eric; (2023) The psychological legacy of past obesity and early mortality: evidence from two longitudinal studies. BMC Medicine , 21 , Article 448. 10.1186/s12916-023-03148-3. Green open access

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: We test a novel 'weight scarring' hypothesis which suggests that past obesity is associated with impairments in current psychological well-being and this increases risk of negative physical health outcomes associated with obesity. Across two nationally representative studies, we tested whether past obesity is associated with current psychological outcomes and whether these psychological outcomes explain the association between past obesity and subsequent early mortality. METHODS: Data were from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) (n = 29,047) and the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) (n = 11,998). Past obesity was defined based on maximum lifetime weight in NHANES and the highest weight from past study waves in the HRS. Across both studies, current depressive symptoms were analysed. A set of 10 additional well-being measures were combined to produce an 'index of impaired well-being' in HRS. Subsequent all-cause mortality was examined using National Deaths Index records in NHANES and household interviews in HRS. Linear or logistic regression, Cox proportional hazard regression, and causal mediation models were used. RESULTS: We found that past obesity was associated with greater current depressive symptoms after controlling for current weight status and in analyses limited to those who were no longer classified as having obesity in NHANES (β = 0.17; 95% CI: 0.13, 0.22) and HRS (β = 0.20; 95% CI: 0.08, 0.31). In HRS, past obesity was also associated with a range of current negative psychological outcomes, including an index of impaired psychological well-being (β = 0.16; 95% CI: 0.05, 0.27). Past obesity was associated with a higher risk of early mortality in both NHANES and HRS (HR = 1.31; 95% CI: 1.16, 1.48 and HR = 1.34; 95% CI: 1.20, 1.50, respectively). Depressive symptoms explained 6% (95% CI: 0.01, 0.10) and 5% (95% CI: 0.01, 0.09) of the association between past obesity and premature mortality in NHANES and HRS, respectively. Impaired psychological well-being partly mediated the association between past obesity and premature mortality by 10% (95% CI: 0.04, 0.16) in HRS. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that there may be a psychological legacy of past obesity that is associated with raised mortality risk. Ensuring people with obesity receive psychological support even after experiencing weight loss may be important.

Type: Article
Title: The psychological legacy of past obesity and early mortality: evidence from two longitudinal studies
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1186/s12916-023-03148-3
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-023-03148-3
Language: English
Additional information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.
Keywords: Depressive symptoms, Mortality, Obesity, Psychological distress, Psychological well-being, Weight scarring, Humans, Nutrition Surveys, Obesity, Overweight, Longitudinal Studies, Weight Loss, Risk Factors
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 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
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10183211
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