Can being skinny lead to depression in both men and women?

Women are more affected by societal pressures about their weight than men, a new study says. Getty Images

Studies have found that being overweight or obese is associated with depression, especially among women. But does that same link exist in those who are underweight?

According to researchers at the Seoul National University of Medicine, yes it does.

In the first study to link depression with underweight body types, the research found that both men and women can be impacted by negative thoughts about being too skinny.

READ MORE: Being overweight in your 20s increases your risk of these 2 cancers by 60 per cent

Researchers were not able to determine which was the cause and effect — if depression led to being thin, or if being thin triggered depression.

However, after analyzing data from over 180 past studies, they were able to find that when it comes to obesity in particular, the risk for depression increases as people pack on more pounds.

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This seems to affect women more than men.

“It seems that the current ideal of thinness affects women more than their male counterparts and causes more psychological distress in women, which can, in turn, lead to depression,” the study states.

But knowing that both sides of the spectrum is associated with depression in either sex, researchers say physicians and other medical professionals should pay attention to the mental health of people who are both over and underweight.

The study was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Studies linking weight and/or weight loss and depression have varied in their findings over the years.

One study by the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior in 2009 concluded that weight loss improves the mood of depressed people who are a part of a six-month behavioral weight-loss support program.

In fact, patients reported greater improvements in their symptoms of depression after losing eight per cent of their initial body weight.

READ MORE: Physical source of depression located: study

On the other hand, another study by the University College London in 2014 argues that weight loss in overweight and obese adults negatively impacts one’s mental health.

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The study looked at almost 2,000 overweight and obese adults in the U.K. It found that people who lost five per cent or more of their body weight over a four-year period showed great changes in their physical health, but were more likely to report being depressed than those who stayed within five per cent of their original weight.

As of 2014, about 20 per cent of Canadians over the age of 18 — or 5.3 million adults — are obese, Statistics Canada reports.

The rate for obesity is higher among men than women (about 22 per cent and 19 per cent, respectively).

And according to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), about eight per cent of adults will experience major depression at some point in their lives.


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