Being obese significantly increases the chances of also developing mental disorders. This applies to all age groups, with women at higher risk than men for most diseases.
Being obese significantly increases the chances of also developing mental disorders. This applies to all age groups, with women at higher risk than men for most diseases, as a recent study of the Complexity Science Hub and the Medical University of Vienna shows. The results were published in the specialist journal Translational Psychiatry.
“We analyzed a population-wide national registry of inpatient hospitalizations in Austria from 1997 to 2014 in order to determine the relative risks of comorbidities in obesity and identify statistically significant sex differences,” explains Elma Dervic of the Complexity Science Hub. Consequently, it became evident that an obesity diagnosis significantly enhances the likelihood of a wide range of mental disorders across all age groups -- including depression, nicotine addiction, psychosis, anxiety, eating and personality disorders. “From a clinical point of view, these results emphasise the need to raise awareness of psychiatric diagnoses in obese patients and, if necessary, to consult specialists at an early stage of diagnosis,” says Michael Leutner of the Medical University of Vienna.
“In order to find out which illness typically appeared prior and subsequently to the obesity diagnosis, we had to develop a new method,” explains Dervic. This allowed the researchers to determine if there were trends and typical patterns in disease occurrence.
In case of all co-diagnoses, with the exception of the psychosis spectrum, obesity was in all likelihood the first diagnosis made prior to the manifestation of a psychiatric diagnosis. “Until now, physicians often considered psychopharmacological medications to cause the association between mental disorders and obesity as well as diabetes. This may be true for schizophrenia, where we see the opposite time order, but our data does not support this for depression or other psychiatric diagnoses,” explains Alexander Kautzky from Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy of the Medical University Vienna. However, whether obesity directly affects mental health or whether early stages of psychiatric disorders are inadequately recognised is not yet known.
Surprisingly, the researchers found significant gender differences for most disorders -- with women showing an increased risk for all disorders except schizophrenia and nicotine addiction.