Researches show that, in general, obese population is not more likely than non-obese people to have mental health disorders. Still, people with more severe obesity, obese women and obese children are at higher risks.
How Obesity Relates to Mental Health
The obese population as a whole does not show higher level of mental health disorders. However, treatment-seeking obese people do show more psychiatric disturbance, at a level comparable to other medical/surgical patients.
There appears to be no general personality traits or profiles that are associated with obesity. Obese people have not been found to differ consistently from normal-weight people on general traits such as masculinity-felinity, locus of control, assertiveness and self-consciousness.
However, obese people differ from non-obese groups on psychological and behavioral variables related to weight and eating. Binge eating appears rather common among obese groups. On measures applied to weight and eating, overweight people are more depressed and self-conscious and less assertive than normal-weight people.
Obesity and Woman’s Mental Health
In a survey conducted in 13 countries with 62,277 respondents, the findings are suggestive of a modest relationship between obesity (particularly severe obesity) and emotional disorders among women in the general population.
These associations were concentrated among those with severe obesity, and among females.
There are a number of possible reasons that may explain this finding. Women appear to be more troubled by obesity than men, for although the prevalence of obesity is fairly similar across men and women, women are much more likely to present for treatment for obesity. They also experience more stigma in association with obesity. Women are under more pressure to be thin, and experience greater body dissatisfaction.
Obesity and Children’s Mental Health
Childhood obesity was associated with negative outcomes in adulthood for men and women, and persistent obesity in women was significantly associated with adverse employment and relationship status.
Obesity that begins in childhood or adolescence may be responsible for body image disturbances later in life, particularly in women.
Certain populations accumulate risk along with their weight. For example, obese Hispanic and white women have significantly lower levels of self-esteem by early adolescence and higher rates of sadness, loneliness, and nervousness. They are also more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors, such as smoking or drinking alcohol.
Kate M. Scott, et al. 2007. Obesity and Mental Disorders in the General Population: Results from the World Mental Health Surveys. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2736857/
Ann E. Maloney. 2011. “Pediatric Obesity: A Review for the Child Psychiatrist.” In Pediatric Clinics of North America, 58: 955–972.
Patrick M O‘Neil and Mark P Jarrell. 1992. “Psychological aspects of obesity and very-low-calorie diets.” In American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 56: 185S-9S.