Relationship among obesity, depression, and emotional eating in young adults

Appetite. 2016 Dec 1:107:639-644. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2016.09.011. Epub 2016 Sep 13.


Depressive symptoms are often associated with obesity, and emotional eating may play a considerable role in weight gain. This study aimed to examine the association among depression symptoms, emotional eating, and body mass index (BMI) in Mexican college students; and to assess emotional eating as mediator between depressive symptoms and BMI. A total of 1453 students at a public university in Mexico City completed the scale Self-Efficacy in Emotion- and Stress- Related Eating of the Eating and Appraisal Due to Emotions and Stress Questionnaire (EADES) to assess emotional eating, and the scale created by the Center for Epidemiologic Studies (CES-D) to identify depressive symptoms. Weight and height were measured to calculate BMI. Structural equation models (SEM) were used to assess emotional eating as mediator between depressive symptoms and BMI by sex. Depressive symptoms were associated with emotional eating in both men (Beta = -0.33, p < 0.001) and women (Beta = -0.46, p < 0.001). Emotional eating, in turn, was associated with BMI in men (Beta = -0.08, p < 0.001) as well as in women (Beta = -0.09, p < 0.001). Emotional eating was a mediator between depression and BMI, adjusted for age in both sexes. This finding suggests that emotion management should be taken into consideration in obesity prevention and treatment strategies applied to young adults.

Keywords: Body mass index; Depression; Eating behavior; Obesity; Young adults.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Mass Index
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Eating / psychology*
  • Emotions*
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mexico
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Students / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Weight Gain
  • Young Adult