Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health


Epidemiology & Community Health

First Advisor

Kate Lapane


Introduction: Obesity is one of the most important medical problems in the U.S. and is considered to be an epidemic with over 30% of the population being obese. Obesity is associated with increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and a shorter life expectancy. Recent studies have shown that higher BMI levels are also significantly associated with several lifetime mental disorders such as major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders as well as panic attacks and panic disorders. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to quantify the extent to which higher BMI increased the likelihood of Depression, Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder and to observe if co-morbid illnesses such as Hypertension and Diabetes affect this association. Methods: A cross-sectional secondary data analysis was conducted using the 2008 National Health Interview Survey. There were 20,593 adult respondents (over 18 years of age) who were included in the study. Logistic regression models were weighted to account for the complex weighting scheme. Main Determinant measures: Based on their BMI, the participants were classified into 5 groups: Underweight (BMI <18.50), Normal Weight (BMI 18.50 – 24.99), Overweight (BMI 25.00 – 29.99), Obese (BMI 30.00-39.99) and Morbidly Obese (BMI > 40.00). Main Outcome Measures: Presence or absence of Depression, Anxiety Disorder or Panic Disorder based on self-report. Results: People who were obese or morbidly obese had higher odds of suffering from depression, anxiety disorder and panic disorder compared to people who were normal weight. Obese individuals were 35% as likely to suffer from depression, 22% as likely to suffer from anxiety disorder and 36% as likely to suffer from panic disorder relative to normal weight persons. Morbidly obese people were 85% as likely to suffer from depression, 27% as likely to suffer from anxiety disorder and 34% as likely to suffer from panic disorder. No interactions were observed based on the presence of hypertension or diabetes. Conclusion: Obesity is associated with an increased prevalence of depression, anxiety disorder and panic disorder. With obesity rates steadily increasing, understanding the impact of obesity on the occurrence of mental disorders is important.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

December 2009

Included in

Epidemiology Commons