Life course BMI trajectories from childhood to mid-adulthood are differentially associated with anxiety and depression outcomes in middle age

Claire Gallagher, Jane Pirkis, Katrina A. Lambert, Jennifer L. Perret, Gulshan B. Ali, Caroline J. Lodge, Gayan Bowatte, Garun S. Hamilton, Melanie C. Matheson, Dinh S. Bui, Michael J. Abramson, E. Haydn Walters, Shyamali C. Dharmage, Bircan Erbas

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Background/Objective: Obesity is a risk factor for multimorbidity, including depression and possibly anxiety. However, it is currently unclear how patterns of change in BMI over the life course differentially influence the magnitude in risk of depression and anxiety in mid-adulthood. We aimed to examine associations between BMI trajectories from childhood to adulthood and the risk of depression and anxiety in middle age. Methods: In the Tasmanian Longitudinal Health Study (n = 2416), five distinct BMI trajectories were previously defined from age 5 to 45 years using group-based modelling. At age 53, current depression and anxiety were assessed using the Patient Health Questionnaire and the Generalized Anxiety Disorder scale, respectively. Logistic regression models adjusted for potential confounders estimated associations between BMI trajectories and these outcomes. Results: Those belonging to the child average-increasing (OR = 2.24; 95%CI: 1.24, 4.06) and persistently high (OR = 2.64; 1.26, 5.52) trajectories were more likely to have depression in middle age, compared to the persistently average trajectory. However, the odds of experiencing greater severity of depressive symptoms was highest in the child average-increasing group (OR = 2.36; 1.59, 3.49). Despite finding no evidence of association between BMI trajectories and current anxiety, we observed less severe symptoms in the child high-decreasing trajectory (OR = 0.68; 0.51, 0.91). Conclusion: We found an increased risk of depression in middle age among individuals with a persistently high BMI from childhood to mid-adulthood and individuals with an average BMI in childhood which then increased consistently throughout adulthood. Encouragingly, resolving childhood adiposity by adulthood was associated with lesser anxiety symptoms. Taken together, these findings highlight the need to target mental health screening and treatment towards high-risk BMI trajectory groups and the importance of early interventions to prevent and resolve excess weight.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)661–668
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Obesity
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023

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