Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Depression Linked to Unhealthy Dieting Habits

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Depression Linked to Unhealthy Dieting Habits

Article excerpt

Women with depression engage in fewer healthy dieting behaviors such as eating fruits and vegetables, and more unhealthy dieting behaviors such as skipping meals, than do women who are not depressed.

The finding "suggests that a 'healthy state of mind' may be a precursor to the adoption of adaptive efforts to lose weight," whereas unhealthy strategies "may represent a form of self-punishment due to disgust with their weight status or themselves in general," according to Meghan M. Gillen, Ph.D., and her colleagues.

Dr. Gillen, of Pennsylvania State University Abington, and colleagues looked at 198 adults in the region of her institution (51% female, mean age 24.8 years) who had volunteered for a larger study about romantic relationships and health. Three-quarters of the participants identified themselves as white (Eat. Behay. 2012;13:88-93).

The average body mass index for women in this sample was 23.93 (range: 17.45-47.71), and the average BMI for men was 27.45 (range: 18.79-49.66).

Overall, 40% of men were overweight, while 25% were obese, in line with national statistics; among women, 22% were overweight, and 8% were obese, a "relatively thin" sample, compared with national figures.

The participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire that dealt with health behaviors and attitudes. The study lasted about 1.5 hours, and each participant received about $25 as payment, except for 14% of the sample who opted to receive credit toward a psychology class instead.

Depression was measured using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Scale for Depression (CES-D), and the 24-item Weight Control Behavior Scale was used to assess weight loss behaviors, with 3 items removed (diet centers with food, weight loss groups, and other) "because it is not clear whether they constitute healthy or unhealthy dieting behaviors."

"In the current study, subscales indude healthy dieting behavior (12 items; for example, 'eat more fruit and vegetables') and unhealthy dieting behavior (9 items; for example, 'skip meals')," Dr. Gillen wrote.

In each case, participants indicated how often they used that strategy to lose weight in the past year, with a score of 0 meaning never, a score of 1 meaning "sometimes," and a score of 2 being "always.

A sum of items on each subscale was used by the investigators to assign an overall "healthy dieting behavior" and "unhealthy dieting behavior" score. …

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