Insulin resistance and obesity, and their association with depression in relatively young people: findings from a large UK birth cohort

Psychol Med. 2020 Mar;50(4):556-565. doi: 10.1017/S0033291719000308. Epub 2019 Mar 11.


Background: Depression frequently co-occurs with disorders of glucose and insulin homeostasis (DGIH) and obesity. Low-grade systemic inflammation and lifestyle factors in childhood may predispose to DGIH, obesity and depression. We aim to investigate the cross-sectional and longitudinal associations among DGIH, obesity and depression, and to examine the effect of demographics, lifestyle factors and antecedent low-grade inflammation on such associations in young people.

Methods: Using the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children birth cohort, we used regression analyses to examine: (1) cross-sectional and (2) longitudinal associations between measures of DGIH [insulin resistance (IR); impaired glucose tolerance] and body mass index (BMI) at ages 9 and 18 years, and depression (depressive symptoms and depressive episode) at age 18 years and (3) whether sociodemographics, lifestyle factors or inflammation [interleukin-6 (IL-6) at age 9 years] confounded any such associations.

Results: We included 3208 participants. At age 18 years, IR and BMI were positively associated with depression. These associations may be explained by sociodemographic and lifestyle factors. There were no longitudinal associations between DGIH/BMI and depression, and adjustment for IL-6 and C-reactive protein did not attenuate associations between IR/BMI and depression; however, the longitudinal analyses may have been underpowered.

Conclusions: Young people with depression show evidence of DGIH and raised BMI, which may be related to sociodemographic and lifestyle effects such as deprivation, smoking, ethnicity and gender. In future, studies with larger samples are required to confirm this. Preventative strategies for the poorer physical health outcomes associated with depression should focus on malleable lifestyle factors.

Keywords: ALSPAC; depression; inflammation; insulin resistance; obesity; overweight.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Mass Index
  • C-Reactive Protein
  • Child
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Glucose Intolerance / blood
  • Glucose Intolerance / epidemiology
  • Glucose Metabolism Disorders / blood
  • Glucose Metabolism Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / blood
  • Inflammation / epidemiology*
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology
  • Interleukin-6 / blood
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Pediatric Obesity / epidemiology*
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology


  • IL6 protein, human
  • Interleukin-6
  • C-Reactive Protein