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Does adolescent depression predict obesity in black and white young adult women?

  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 October 2005

Background. To examine whether adolescent depressive symptoms predict young adult body mass index (BMI) and obesity in black and white women.

Method. Participants included 1554 black and white adolescent girls from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Growth and Health Study (NGHS) who completed the Center for Epidemiological Studies – Depression Scale (CES-D) at ages 16 and 18 years.

Results. Regression analyses showed that depressive symptoms at both ages 16 and 18 were associated with increased risk of obesity (BMI[ges ]30) and elevated BMI in young adulthood (age 21) in both black and white girls. Black girls exhibited a significantly greater likelihood of obesity and higher BMI (i.e. a main effect of race), but the race×CES-D interaction was not significant in any analysis.

Conclusions. Depressive symptoms in adolescence appear to be predictive of obesity and elevated BMI in early adulthood for both black and white girls, even when taking prior BMI into account, indicating that depressive symptoms confer risk for obesity above and beyond the known tracking of body weight. Obesity prevention studies might consider assessing depressive symptoms in adolescence in order to more fully capture important risk variables.

Corresponding author
Department of Counseling and Applied Educational Psychology, Northeastern University, 203 Lake Hall, 360 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115-5000, USA. (Email:
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Psychological Medicine
  • ISSN: 0033-2917
  • EISSN: 1469-8978
  • URL: /core/journals/psychological-medicine
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