March 5, 2008 / 9:00 PM / 11 years ago

Depression, anxiety tied to unhealthy habits

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Depression and anxiety are associated with obesity and poor health behaviors like smoking, drinking, and inactivity, new research indicates.

“Depression and anxiety are serious mental health conditions and without treatment may assume a chronic course,” Dr. Tara W. Strine who led the study told Reuters Health. “Given this, it is important to take depression and anxiety seriously and to seek medical care when needed.”

Strine, from the division of adult and community health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta and colleagues analyzed data from 217,379 U.S. adults who took part in the 2006 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System — a large telephone survey that monitors the prevalence of key health behaviors.

Of those surveyed, 8.7 percent reported current depression, 15.7 percent had a history of depression, and 11.3 percent had a history of anxiety at some time, the researchers report in the journal General Hospital Psychiatry.

Results showed that adults with current depression or a previous diagnosis of depression were 60 percent more likely to be obese and twice as likely to smoke as their non-depressed peers.

Those with an anxiety disorder were 30 percent more likely to be obese and twice as likely to smoke as their non-anxious counterparts.

Those with depression and anxiety were also more likely to follow an inactive lifestyle, and to be binge or heavy drinkers.

Strine added, “There is a dose-response relationship between depression severity and the prevalence of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity; and also between history of depression (never depressed, previously depressed, currently depressed) and the prevalence of smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, binge drinking, and heavy drinking.”

The team concludes, “The significant associations that we found between mental health problems, unhealthy behaviors and obesity, suggest that public health interventions should address mental and physical health as a combined entity and that programs to simultaneously improve people’s mental and physical health should be developed and implemented.”

SOURCE: General Hospital Psychiatry, March/April 2008.

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