The University of Cambridge found that increases in symptoms of depression are associated with an increase in bodyweight one month later, especially for people with overweight or obesity. The study, published in PLOS ONE, looked at the connection between weight and mental health in over 2,000 adults in the UK. Participants completed questionnaires on mental wellbeing and bodyweight every month for up to nine months during the COVID-19 pandemic. The researchers found that for every increase in an individual’s usual score for depressive symptoms, their subsequent weight one month later increased by 45g. This effect was only observed in individuals with overweight or obesity, not in those with a healthy weight. The researchers also found no evidence that perceived stress or anxiety were related to changes in weight. Dr Julia Mueller, the first author of the study, said that individuals with overweight or obesity are more vulnerable to weight gain in response to feeling more depressed. Dr Kirsten Rennie, the senior author, said that using phone apps for frequent and extended mental health assessments could help understand how changes in mental health influence behavior and offer timely interventions. The study was supported by the Medical Research Council.

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