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Racial and ethnic differences in the association between obesity and depression in women

BACKGROUND: It is generally accepted that obesity and depression are positively related in women. Very little prior research, however, has examined potential variation in this relationship across different racial/ethnic groups. This paper examines the association between obesity and depression in non-Hispanic White, non-Hispanic Black, and Mexican American women. METHODS: The sample included women aged 20 years and older in the 2005-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (n=3666). Logistic regression was used to assess the relationship between obesity and depression syndrome (assessed using the Patient Health Questionnaire-9), after adjusting for covariates. We then investigated whether this association varied by race/ethnicity. RESULTS: Overall, obese women showed a 73% greater odds of depression (odds ratio [OR]=1.73; 95% confidence interval [CI]=1.19, 2.53) compared with normal weight women. This association varied significantly, however, by race/ethnicity. The obesity-depression associations for both Black and Mexican American women were different from the positive association found for White women (ORBlack*obese=0.24; 95% CI=0.10,0.54; ORMexican American*obese=0.42; 95% CI=1.04). Among White women, obesity was associated with significantly greater likelihood of depression (OR=2.37; 95% CI=1.41, 4.00) compared to normal weight. Among Black women, although not statistically significant, results are suggestive that obesity was inversely associated with depression (OR=0.56; 95% CI=0.28, 1.12) relative to normal weight. Among Mexican American women, obesity was not associated with depression (OR=1.01; 95% CI=0.59, 1.72). CONCLUSIONS: The results reveal that the association between obesity and depression varies by racial/ethnic categorization. White, but not Black or Mexican American women showed a positive association. Next research steps could include examination of factors that vary by race/ethnicity that may link obesity to depression.