Obesity in women was associated with a 37 percent increase in the probability of being diagnosed with major depression, while for men obesity was associated with a decrease of similar proportions.
Among women, a 10-unit increase in body mass index (BMI) increased the risk of past-year suicidal thoughts and attempts by 22 percent. For males, the same increase in BMI reduced the risk of past-year suicidal thoughts by 26 percent and attempts by 55 percent. In fact, underweight men were 81 percent more likely to have thought about suicide, 77 percent more likely to have attempted suicide and 25 percent more likely to be clinically depressed than average-weight men.
The authors speculate the findings for men "concern the psychosocial consequences of being underweight . . . " and "data suggest that men judge a smaller body frame to be less preferable than a larger, more muscular one."
They suggest the findings for women "may relate to the stigma of obesity for women in Western culture." Respondents were 40,086 African-American and white participants in the 1992 National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey. There were no racial differences.