Mental health & obesity

There is a correlation between mental health issues and incidences of obesity. When we have mental health issues, it is not uncommon for us to overeat.

It’s a fact that the western world’s population is becoming more obese. The World Health Organisation believes that by 2020, obesity will be the single biggest killer. (Source:

Currently, it is estimated that at least 300 million adults worldwide are obese, with a body mass index of over thirty. Over one billion people are overweight with a body mass index of more than 27.3 per cent for women and 27.8 per cent for men. Obesity affects all ages and socioeconomic groups.

But the biggest reason for obesity is mental health. Recent studies have shown the link between obesity and mental health issues such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. Other disorders that stem from mental health issues include binge eating disorder and night eating syndrome. It is important that doctors look at this and begin to address their patients’ emotional health.

When we focus on our mental health, we can begin to cut down on obesity. It is important that doctors begin to make themselves aware of the underlying causes of obesity in their patients and ask the right questions. Obesity is a symptom for which there is always a bigger picture, but no one ever makes the correlation.

Compared to adults with a healthy weight, adults with a BMI greater than thirty are more at risk of hypertension, high cholesterol, stroke, heart disease, osteoarthritis, certain types of cancer and sleep problems. Unfortunately, obesity has become a public health issue on an already overburdened system, but it’s one that if not tackled at the root, may never decrease.

Unless those of us who struggle with the condition make the correlation, it’s also not something that can easily be fixed. Sometimes it’s not always that straightforward; particularly if there is an underlying physical cause, like a thyroid problem. It may be difficult to start losing weight without outside help and guidance, but the root cause will always need to be addressed first.

Although obesity runs in families and is linked to mental health, our sedentary lifestyles, over-eating and a lack of exercise are all major contributors.

11 Nov, 2016

8 thoughts on “Mental health & obesity

  1. Obesity has become a world problem. I remember reading a while ago that there are about 3 million deaths, annually that are attributable to being obese.

    People link obesity simply to over-eating and a lack of exercise, but I think you are completely right in that there is a mental health reason why people behave like this.

    Acknowledging that will be a key part to making improvements in people’s lifestyles and mental state.

    1. Yes, perhaps then there needs to be more education out there about mental health and obesity, so that people can begin to make the correlation for themselves; but that really needs to happen.

      I believe that needs to happen before we can help others with their obesity problems.

  2. Yes, so very sad but true! I have been diagnosed with morbid obesity, which makes sense considering my mental health issues are GAD and depression.

    I got into the very bad habit of snacking a lot when I was staying with a friend and can’t seem to break away from it. Of course it doesn’t help that I live with someone who likes to cook and snacks a lot herself.

    Kind of hard to get really motivated to lose weight when you live with someone who has poor eating habits herself. I’m not using that as an excuse, but just the reality of my life right now. Add that to the fact that I can’t exercise with anyone around and I’m kind of out of luck at the moment.

    This issue stems from the fact that my mother would sit and stare at me constantly, which made me very neurotic. Of course being an anxious person, I tend to want to snack when I’m nervous.

    It wasn’t so much of an issue when I was younger, but it seems like once I hit 40 or so, my metabolism slowed to a crawl. One of the big issues nowadays is the vast amount of junk foods and such easy access to them.

    It’s actually good that foods from places like McDonald’s doesn’t agree with me, or I probably would weigh 500 pounds! It’s bad enough that I weigh half of that since I’m only 5’6″.

    It does come down to the fact that unless people deal with their core issues, they won’t be able to resist the temptation to eat their feelings away. It’s just another addiction like drinking or doing drugs so it needs to be treated in the same way.

    1. Thanks Randy. Yes, how right you are. Unfortunately our metabolism slows down at around the age of 26, so if we’re not keeping active that’s about the time we will start to put on the pounds.

      I agree about obesity being another addiction to drinking or taking drugs and although mental health issues are the biggest problem, they don’t always present in the same way and correlations aren’t always made.

      Doctors see the issues, but they’re not making the correlations at all or quick enough. We live in a democracy where we get to make our own decisions and therefore don’t always take responsibility, or look for the help in the way we know we should.

      I feel very strongly that we must take control of our lives and our circumstances and change what we need to change. We are responsible for our own health and yet our health is the last thing we take notice of or work to change.

      Until we change, our circumstances and will remain the same, but our health may not. Your last paragraph sums up your response, but where that is the truth, it’s not an excuse. You already know it’s not.

      Unfortunately, any form of obesity can lead to complications like diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Regardless of how we get to these places, it’s vital we start to change our circumstances first; then the issues.

      We will never be able to change our issues without changing our circumstances first.

  3. Wow wonderful read!! I very much agree stress being related to obesity and even weight gain itself.

    It’s so important to be mentally and emotionally stable and keep an exercise program going to stay fit.

    1. Thanks Bonnie. You’re absolutely right.

      It is so important we’re mentally and physically stable. The key to that of course as you say, is a good lifestyle, exercise, eating right and worrying less.

    1. Thanks Brian. It’s always lovely to have you on the site.

      Yes, unfortunately, when it comes to prescribed medication, weight gain does seem to be one of the side effects. Hopefully once you’re feeling better you should be able to make changes elsewhere, even if your medication.

      I believe lifestyle contributes to us making better decisions around our health. Just making one or two changes can make us feel so much better in ourselves. Even if you cannot reduce all your meds because of what you deal with, just incorporating a healthier lifestyle, will go some way to changing how you feel.

      Being more proactive in our life and with our health helps motivate us to a better lifestyle.

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