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Scientists from Complexity Science Hub Vienna and Medical University of Vienna discovered that increased body weight predisposes to the development of mental disorders. This applies to all age groups, with this correlation more common in women. The research results were published in the specialized journal "Translational Psychiatry".

"We analyzed a national hospitalization registry covering the entire Austrian population from 1997 to 2014 to determine the relative risk of obesity-related comorbidities and to identify statistically significant gender differences," explains Elma Dervic of the Complexity Science Hub.

A diagnosis of obesity in all age groups has been found to significantly increase the likelihood of developing a wide range of psychiatric disorders, including: depression, nicotine addiction, psychosis, anxiety, eating disorders and personality disorders.

The first diagnosis is usually obesity

“From a clinical point of view, these results indicate the need to raise awareness about diagnosing mental disorders in obese patients and, if necessary, to consult specialists at an early stage,” says Dr. Michael Leutner from the Medical University of Vienna.

Elma Dervic points out that in order to find out which disease appeared before and which after the diagnosis of obesity, scientists had to develop a new research methodology. Thanks to this, it was possible to determine whether there are any trends and typical patterns of occurrence of particular mental disorders.

In all co-diagnosed disorders, with the exception of the psychotic spectrum, obesity was most likely the first diagnosis. “Until now, doctors often believed that psychotropic drugs could influence the development of obesity or diabetes. And in some cases, e.g. in schizophrenia, there is probably such a relationship, but our research does not confirm this in other mental disorders, including, for example, depression" - explained Dr. Alexander Kautzky from the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Medical University of Vienna.

However, the study did not clearly explain whether obesity directly affects mental health or whether the recognition of mental disorders in the early stages is insufficient.

Women who are overweight are more at risk

Surprisingly, researchers found significant gender differences in the prevalence of most psychiatric disorders in obese people. It turned out that obese women have an increased risk of developing all disorders except schizophrenia and nicotine addiction.

According to research, nicotinism concerns 16.66 percent. obese men and only 8.58 percent. obese women. In the case of depression, the statistics are reversed. The percentage of diagnosed depressive episodes is almost three times higher in obese women (13.3% obese; 4.8% non-obese), while obese men are only twice as likely to develop the disease (6.61% obese; 3.21% non-obese).

Prevention and early treatment are key

Currently, obesity is considered a civilization disease. It is estimated to affect over 670 million people worldwide. It has been proven that it promotes metabolic disorders and serious cardiovascular complications, mainly diabetes, dyslipidemia and hypertension.

A study by scientists from the Complexity Science Hub Vienna and the Medical University of Vienna indicates that obesity can often precede serious mental disorders. This applies primarily to younger age groups, where the risk is greatest. For this reason, experts conclude, thorough screening for mental health problems in obese patients is urgently needed. This can facilitate prevention or ensure appropriate treatment at an early stage.

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