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A recent study has shown that a single month of depression can result in rapid weight gain. Although the connection between depression and weight increase has been acknowledged, the precise interplay has been unclear until this study, emphasizing the need for further understanding in this area.

Weight gain during COVID-19 pandemic associated with depressive symptoms

In the study by the University of Cambridge published in the journal PLoS ONE, researchers in the UK found a correlation between weight gain during the COVID-19 pandemic and individuals who were already overweight. This effect was observed in participants who reported comfort eating or lacked exercise. The study analyzed data from 2,000 adults in Cambridgeshire, collected through a mobile app and monthly questionnaires on mental well-being and body weight over nine months.

According to Dr. Kirsten Rennie, the senior author of a study from the MRC Epidemiology Unit, said that mobile apps enable individuals to respond to brief questions at home regularly, offering extensive insights into their well-being. This technological approach holds potential in comprehending the impact of mental health changes on behavior in those overweight or obese, facilitating timely interventions.

Depressive symptoms associated with weight gain

Increased depressive symptoms correlate with weight gain, as each incremental rise corresponds to an average weight increase of 45 grams a month later. Overweight individuals and those with obesity showed higher average weight gains, with 52 grams and 71 grams, respectively. This effect wasn’t observed in healthy weight individuals or response to anxiety and stress.

This implies that individuals with excess weight are prone to increased weight gain when experiencing heightened depression. Lead author Dr. Julia Mueller explained that despite the slight increase, even minor weight fluctuations over brief durations may contribute to substantial long-term changes, especially in individuals with overweight and obesity.

Individuals with an elevated BMI face heightened vulnerability to various health issues, potentially exacerbating their well-being. Attending to and mitigating depressive symptoms in those with excess weight may curb additional weight gain, fostering improvements in both mental and physical health.