Depressive symptoms in overweight and obese older adults: a test of the "jolly fat" hypothesis

J Psychosom Res. 1996 Jan;40(1):59-66. doi: 10.1016/0022-3999(95)00542-0.


The association between body weight and depressive symptoms in older adults was examined in a population-based study of 2,245 noninstitutionalized men and women aged 50 to 89 years living in Rancho Bernardo, California, U.S.A. The prevalence of Beck Depression Inventory scores > or = 13 was inversely associated with body weight in men, but not in women. Overweight and obese 50- to 69-yr-old women were more depressed than women with a body mass index below 25 kg/m2, but the difference was only marginally significant (p = 0.09). When age, health status and medication use were controlled, the odds of being depressed were 0.34 (p = 0.004) in overweight men and 0.28 (p = 0.09) in obese men, compared to men with a body mass index below 25 kg/m2. In this cohort, depression in men was inversely associated with body weight, supporting the "Jolly Fat" hypothesis. The likelihood that more stigma is attached to excessive weight in women than men may account for the lack of an inverse association between weight and depression in women.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Factors