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Researchers from University College Cork’s School of Public Health have discovered a correlation between obesity and poorer mental health among middle-aged to older individuals, regardless of other health conditions and lifestyle factors.

In their publication on the open-access platform PLOS ONE, Sean Millar, Caoimhe Lonergan, and Zubair Kabi elucidate their examination of health records pertaining to over 1,800 adult participants, wherein they compared BMI assessments with mental health evaluations.

Obesity linked to depression in older people

Previous research and anecdotal evidence have hinted at a connection between obesity and depression in older people, but this study aims to provide concrete evidence. The researchers recruited volunteers from a primary care center to participate in the study on obesity.

The study investigating the relationship between obesity and depression in older individuals involved 1,821 volunteers aged 46 to 73. Participants from a primary care center consented to the study, providing access to medical records and undergoing tests including blood samples for glycated hemoglobin and glucose levels after fasting overnight. Measurements of weight, height, and waist circumference were taken to calculate BMI. Additionally, participants completed forms detailing lifestyle, demographics, and health factors.

Upon scrutinizing the data and controlling for lifestyle variables, the investigators identified a correlation between BMI/body measurements indicative of obesity and depression, coupled with diminished well-being. This correlation was more prevalent among female participants in the study. Furthermore, they observed consistency between their findings and those of analogous research endeavors.

Social and physical factors influence obesity in elderly population

The research team proposes that the diminished mental health observed in elderly individuals affected by obesity is likely influenced by social and physical factors. They highlight the presence of social stigma, bias, and occasional discrimination against individuals grappling with obesity. Additionally, they underscore a body of literature indicating various health complications linked to obesity, ranging from musculoskeletal issues such as joint and back pain to cardiovascular ailments and fibromyalgia.

Researchers propose that the confluence of challenges encountered by individuals with obesity is likely a contributing factor to diminished mental well-being. They advocate for targeted interventions from healthcare providers, emphasizing the importance of incorporating support for weight management.