To Your Health
May, 2024 (Vol. 18, Issue 05)
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The Weight of Mental Health

By Editorial Staff

Weight plays a significant role in mental health – and it's not just excess weight. Underweight status can also affect mental health, although it's often underappreciated since being overweight is so stigmatized and critiqued.

It's also not just adults who experience mental health issues due to weight. Witness findings from a new study that evaluated mental health among adolescents experiencing weight issues.

Researchers evaluating the relationship between body-mass index (BMI) and mental health utilized a large study population for their work: more than 1 million adolescents ages 11-15 years at baseline. The researchers tracked participants over the course of more than 15 years to see how changes in weight and changes in mental health status were potentially associated.

Findings revealed a consistent "U-shaped" association between BMI and mental health, meaning that both high and low BMI participants experienced the most psychological / psychosomatic symptoms compared to "normal BMI" participants. "Consistent" means that even as adolescents aged during the study period, this association did not change significantly; in fact, if anything, the association strengthened. (As you can imagine, as teenagers and young adults, weight concerns may impact mental health to an even greater extent than during adolescence.)

While acceptance of one's body weight / BMI is the ultimate goal, from a health and wellness perspective (physical and mental health), it's clear that high weight / low weight matters. If weight is affecting your child's mental health, don't ignore it. Addressing the weight – and thus the mental health issues – could be a win-win for your child.