When we hear the word “bodyweight”, many of us will begin to think about diets, exercise and obesity – all of which are elements relating to our physical health.
However, the connection between weight and a person’s mental health is another area which should definitely not be overlooked.
The actual causes of mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia can be complicated to ascertain, however, there are many areas of our health which are interconnected – one of which is our body weight.
How is our bodyweight connected to mental health?
A report published back in 2009 found that people suffering from chronic anxiety and depression were more likely to gain weight after examining more than 4,000 civil servants over a considerable 19-year period.
In some cases, individuals who displayed symptoms of one or more mental health illnesses were twice as likely to become clinically obese by the end of the study.
Gregory Simon, a Seattle-based Psychiatrist, has stated the connection to a rise in body weight for people suffering from mental health conditions is likely linked to an increase in appetite and a tendency to exercise less frequently.
These are both common occurrences for people suffering from depression and, naturally, can lead to a quick increase in bodyweight.
Furthermore, obesity can consequently intensify feelings of depression and anxiety as a result of the associated stigma, creating somewhat of a vicious cycle.
In the U.S alone, the average rate of obesity ranges from 25% to 30%, however, this figure nearly doubles when analysing people with mental health issues.
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Drinking and eating can often be a go-to option during times of sadness as it can make us feel more content, if only temporarily. The same holds true for people living with depression, however, it can often become more harmful than healthy.
This type of behaviour can not only develop into more addictive tendencies, but can also lead to rapid weight gain if left unnoticed.
Even if an individual has no previous history of mental health, obesity can create new challenges in terms of anxiety or insecurity based on how they perceive their image.
It would be naïve to believe obesity does not attract abuse and this is another area in which additional bodyweight can cause issues.
Especially apparent (but not limited to) the lives of younger people, obesity can lead to mocking and, in more serious cases, bullying. As a result, people can become paranoid about their weight and take unnecessary measures to change the way they look.
We’ve talked a lot about how weight gain can be associated to various mental health conditions, but what about the reverse?
For parents, it can be especially important to monitor the weight of your children from their early years, all the way through to young adulthood. This is because weight loss can be a warning sign of the onset of eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa.
A report commissioned in February 2015 by Beat (a leading UK eating disorder charity) discovered around 725,000 people are affected by an eating disorder in the UK alone.
Furthermore, the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence’s estimates state that, of the 725,000 affected, only 11% are male.
To put things perspective, a staggering 89% of those living with an eating disorder are female – a percentage which equates to 645,250 people.
Currently, the most common disorders in this category are bulimia and anorexia which, out of all people living with an eating disorder, affects 40% and 10% respectively.
Whilst these conditions are definitely a concern in their own right, eating disorders such as these can often be associated with other mental health problems such a depression, anxiety and substance abuse.
Consequently, it is important for parents to be aware of their children’s health and observing their weight is one effective way of doing this.
As you can see, there is a clear connection between mental health and our bodyweight and this is just one of the reasons as to why it is important to monitor your weight on a regular basis.
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