Mental Health and Obesity: Are They Related in Young Adult, Middle-aged, and Older Adult Females in the General Population?

Purpose: Although the relationship between mental health disorders and obesity has been established, limited research addresses the relation between overall mental health and obesity status, especially by gender and age groups. The purpose of this study is to examine whether current general mental health differs by obesity status among young adult, middle-aged, and older adult females in the general population.

Methods: The cross-sectional analysis used 2016 data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) for young adult females (N=1.535), middle-aged females (N=6.198), and older adult females (N=5.567) from Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Multiple logistic regression analyses by age group and state were used to assess the relationship between obesity and current mental health while controlling for health status, health behaviors, demographic factors, and socioeconomic status.

Results: Less than half of participants in all age groups reported current mental health issues (young: 44%-51%; middle-aged: 41%-43%, older: 18%-29%) or obese status (young: 29%-41%; middle-aged: 38%-49%; older: 27%-35%). The results of adjusted analyses showed that current mental health did not differ by weight status within any age groups across states. However, in at least 3 of 4 states, current mental health was highly-related to number of health conditions in all age groups, and moderately-related to general health and substance use in middle-aged and older adult females.

Conclusion: The results of this study indicate that current mental health is not related to obesity in females of different age groups, but that current mental health is consistently and moderately to highly-related to number of health conditions in all age groups and to substance use in middle-aged and older adult females. Practitioners should screen for all of these in adult female patients who present with any, regardless of age and educate and treat as comorbid conditions.


Shropshire ML, Torre JJ, Zeitz EL, Fuller AM and Hartos JL

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