The association between personality traits, cognitive reactivity and body mass index is dependent on depressive and/or anxiety status

J Psychosom Res. 2016 Oct:89:26-31. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2016.07.013. Epub 2016 Jul 22.


Objective: A range of biological, social and psychological factors, including depression and anxiety disorders, is thought to be associated with higher body mass index (BMI). Depression and anxiety disorders are associated with specific psychological vulnerabilities, like personality traits and cognitive reactivity, that may also be associated with BMI. The relationship between those psychological vulnerabilities and BMI is possibly different in people with and without depression and anxiety disorders. Therefore, we examined the relationship between personality traits, cognitive reactivity and severity of affective symptoms with BMI in people with and without depression and anxiety disorders.

Methods: Data from 1249 patients with current major depressive and/or anxiety disorder and 631 healthy controls were sourced from the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety. Linear and logistic regression analyses were used to determine the associations between personality traits (neuroticism, extraversion, conscientiousness), cognitive reactivity (hopelessness, aggression, rumination, anxiety sensitivity), depression and anxiety symptoms with BMI classes (normal: 18.5-24.9, overweight: 25-29.9, and obese: ≥30kg/m(2)) and continuous BMI. Due to significant statistical interaction, analyses were stratified for healthy individuals and depressed/anxious patients.

Results: Personality traits were not consistently related to BMI. In patients, higher hopelessness and aggression reactivity and higher depression and anxiety symptoms were associated with higher BMI. In contrast, in healthy individuals lower scores on hopelessness, rumination, aggression reactivity and anxiety sensitivity were associated with higher BMI.

Conclusion: These results suggest that, particularly in people with psychopathology, cognitive reactivity may contribute to obesity.

Keywords: Anxiety disorders; Body mass index; Cognitive reactivity; Depressive disorders; Obesity; Personality traits.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aggression / psychology
  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / diagnosis
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / epidemiology
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Neuroticism
  • Obesity / diagnosis
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Overweight / diagnosis
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Overweight / psychology*
  • Personality*