Mental health and weight have long been believed to be connected. In fact, numerous studies have linked the two, particularly when it comes to depression and anxiety. That said, many different mental disorders increase an individual’s risk of struggling with weight.

That said, a British study that followed over 4,000 adults for more than twenty years revealed that mental health and weight are even more closely linked than was previously proven. People with these conditions are not only more likely to gain weight over time than people who don’t have these conditions. They are also more likely to experience obesity.

Depression, Anxiety, Mental Health and Weight

The research also showed that mental health and weight are connected in that people whose episodes of depression, anxiety or other disorders were chronic were more likely to struggle with weight and become obese.

Individuals who suffered from one or more mental disorder symptoms at three times during the length of the study had twice the likelihood of suffering obesity by the end of the research when compared to people who didn’t report any symptoms.

Mika Kivimaki, PhD, one of the study researchers from University College London, stated that at the beginning of the study, none of the participants were obese. “The more times mental health symptoms were reported, the greater the risk for becoming obese by the end of the study. This points to a dose-response association between mental disorders and weight gain, added Kivimaki in a WebMD report.

Depression and Obesity Risk

The 4,363 total study participants were aged 35 to 55 when they first enrolled. They were all government workers. Each participant underwent both mental health exams and physical health examinations at different points in the study. These were at the start, as well as at three other times over the average 19 year follow up. The physical exams took into account height, weight and body mass index (BMI).

After factors such as psychiatric drugs known to have weight gain as a side effect, were adjusted, it was determined that mental health and weight were strongly connected. People who had anxiety, depression or other mental health problems at the beginning of the research were much more likely to be obese by the end of the study than those who did not have mental health problems.

On the other hand, the researchers also determined that obesity did not appear to increase the risk of mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.