The cliché of the jolly fat person is an outmoded stereotype, with many adults admitting to comfort eating when they feel depressed. And now a new study has also found a link between children's weight and the state of their mental health.
Research has found that the link between depression and obesity is particularly strong in young girls, whilst depressed boys were found to have less risk of becoming overweight.
The study, whose findings were published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, involved researchers giving stress tests to a random sampling of children. Those who showed signs of depression also showed a spike in the stress hormone cortisol that has been linked to obesity. However, out of the children tested, only the depressed girls were overweight.
The researchers believe that the difference could be due to the behavioural and physiological differences in the way boys and girls react to anxiety.
An international research team, including Dr. Elizabeth J. Susman, from Penn State University, colleagues from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and University College London, examined the behaviour of 111 boys and girls between the ages of 8 and 13 to check for symptoms of depression.
They then weighed the children and checked their cortisol levels before and after they gave them a stress test. The children who exhibited signs of depression were more likely to produce cortisol when put under stress, and the more depressed they were, the higher their cortisol spikes. The depressed girls were found to be the most likely to be overweight.
Dr Susman says that parents and clinicians should be sensitive to weight issues in depressed children, and vice versa. She told ParentDish US: "Obesity and depression go together...we don't know what causes what, but certainly, if you see a child who is obese you have to have some understanding of their psychological state as well."
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