Relationship between severity of obesity and mental health: An Australian community survey
Introduction: In Australia the incidence of obesity is increasing rapidly and has become a significant public health concern. In addition to the many physical consequences of obesity many studies have reported sig- nificant mental health consequences, including major depression, mood and anxiety disorders. The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between severity of obesity and perceived mental health in an Australian community sample. Methods: A cross-sectional survey design was used. A total of 118 par- ticipants, aged between 19 and 75 years with a body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to 30 kg/m2 returned a completed questionnaire. The SF-36 Health Survey, Kessler Psychological Distress Scale, Social Interaction Anxiety Scale and the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support were used. Results: After adjusting for age, gender, perceived social support and physical health quality of life, obesity was not significantly associated with mental health quality of life (SF-36). The strongest factor influencing mental health was perceived physical health. Mediation analyses suggest that physical health mediates the relationship between obesity and mental health quality of life. Discussion: Our findings support the view that physical health mediates the relationship between obesity and mental health. Public health inter- ventions should focus on reducing the impact of obesity on physical health by encouraging participation in healthy lifestyles, which in turn, may improve mental wellbeing.