Gender differences in the association between body mass index and psychopathology

CNS Spectr. 2009 Jul;14(7):372-83. doi: 10.1017/s1092852900023026.


Introduction: The objective of the study was to examine gender differences in the relationship between weight group (under-weight to severely obese), and Axis I and Axis II psychopathology.

Methods: Data from the National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) were analyzed. Logistic regression models examined the past-year likelihood for meeting diagnostic criteria for psychiatric disorders. Interactions between weight group and gender were utilized to determine whether associations were significantly different in men and women after adjusting for demographic characteristics.

Results: First, consistent with previous NESARC analyses, the prevalence estimates of psychiatric disorders were higher among people of higher body mass index groups, regardless of gender. However, these patterns differed across genders. Both severely obese women and men, in comparison to normal weight respondents, were much more likely to meet criteria for affective and anxiety disorders, but these associations were significantly (1.5-2 times) stronger among women. For Axis II disorders, while there were very few associations between personality disorders and weight in men, among women increases in weight group were associated with increases in the likelihood of meeting criteria for a personality disorder.

Conclusion: Weight and psychopathology appear more strongly associated in women than in men. While these data do not allow for identification of underlying mechanisms, they highlight the importance of assessing for psychopathology in overweight and obese patients, and suggest that weight management may be an important consideration in the treatment of psychiatric disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychopathology
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Characteristics*