Mental Health Tied to Weight Gain in Obese People During Pandemic

WEDNESDAY, July 27, 2022 — Weight gain in adults with obesity during the COVID-19 pandemic is associated with higher baseline body mass index deteriorations in mental health, maladaptive eating behaviors, and less physical activity and sleep, according to a study published online June 30 in Obesity.

Jaime P. Almandoz, M.D., from University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, and colleagues examined the relationships between body weight changes, health behaviors, and mental health in 404 adults (82.6 percent female; mean age, 52.5 years) seen at three obesity practices (March 1 to Nov. 30, 2021).

The researchers found that mean weight change was +4.3 percent during the study period, with 30 percent of participants reporting weight gain ≥5 percent and 19 percent reporting ≥5 percent body weight loss. There was a positive association observed between degree of both weight gain and weight loss with baseline body mass index. The majority of participants (80 percent) reported difficulties with body weight regulation. Those who gained ≥5 percent body weight were more likely to report higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression; less sleep and exercise; less healthy eating and home-cooked meals; and more takeout foods, comfort foods, fast foods, overeating, and binge eating compared with those who lost ≥5 percent body weight.

“Our findings underscore the complexity of obesity; it’s not just about telling people to eat less and move more,” Almandoz said in a statement. “There’s this mental health aspect that has to be integrated into treatment as well.”

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