The relation between obesity and depressed mood in a multi-ethnic population. The HELIUS study

Deborah Gibson-Smith*, Mariska Bot, Marieke Snijder, Mary Nicolaou, Eske M. Derks, Karien Stronks, Ingeborg A. Brouwer, Marjolein Visser, Brenda W.J.H. Penninx

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose: To examine the association between obesity and depressed mood in a large multi-ethnic population and check for consistency in this association across six ethnic groups. Methods: Data of 21,030 persons (18–70 years) were sourced from the HELIUS study. Cross-sectional relationships between obesity measures [body mass index (kg/m2) and waist circumference (cm)] and depressed mood (PHQ-9 score ≥ 10) were analysed. Consistency of associations was investigated across ethnic groups by interaction terms (ethnicity*obesity measures) in basic (age, sex, education) and fully (health behaviours and somatic health) adjusted models. Results: Obesity was prevalent in all ethnic groups, but varied substantially. After sociodemographic adjustment, obesity measures were associated with increased odds of depressed mood but this was inconsistent across ethnic groups. Obesity (BMI ≥ 30 or highest waist circumference quartile) was strongly and significantly associated with depressed mood in the Dutch [Odds Ratio (OR) = 1.72; 95% Confidence intervals (CI) 1.24–2.40, and OR = 1.86; 95% CI 1.38–2.50], respectively, and African Surinamese (OR = 1.60; 95% CI 1.29–1.98 and OR = 1.59; 95% CI 1.27–2.00, respectively) but had a weaker, non-significant association in other ethnic groups (South-Asian Surinamese, Ghanaian, Moroccan, Turkish groups). Adjustment for health behaviours and somatic health had limited effect on this pattern. Conclusion: Obesity was associated with a higher risk of depressed mood. However, ethnic differences were found: the obesity-depressed mood association was strong in the Dutch and African Surinamese populations, but not in other ethnic groups. Future studies should explore whether differential normative values or pathophysiology across ethnic groups explain why the obesity-depression association is inconsistent across ethnic groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)629-638
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
Issue number6
Early online date11 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


Acknowledgements The HELIUS study is conducted by the Academic Medical Center Amsterdam and the Public Health Service of Amsterdam. Both organisations provided core support for HELIUS. The HELIUS study is also funded by the Dutch Heart Foundation, the Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development (ZonMw), the European Union (FP-7), and the European Fund for the Integration of non-EU immigrants (EIF). We gratefully acknowledge the AMC Biobank for their support in biobank management and high-quality storage of collected samples. We are most grateful to the participants of the HELIUS study and the management team, research nurses, interviewers, research assistants and other staff who have taken part in gathering the data of this study. DGS, MB, MV, IB and BP were supported by the EU-MoodFood grant. Funding for this research is provided by EU FP7 MooDFOOD Project ‘Multi-country cOllaborative project on the rOle of Diet, FOod-related behaviour, and Obesity in the prevention of Depression’, Grant agreement no. 613598. The study reported here was additionally supported by an additional grant from the Amsterdam Public Health research institute.

FundersFunder number
Amsterdam Public Health Research Institute
Dutch Heart Foundation
European Fund
Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development
Seventh Framework Programme
FP7 Ideas: European Research Council613598
European CommissionFP-7


    • Depressed mood
    • Ethnicity
    • HELIUS study
    • Obesity
    • Overweight


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