Weight Change and Depression Among U.S. Young Women During the Transition to Adulthood


The Issue:
Approximately one in four U.S. adolescent girls will become or remain obese by young adulthood. Young women face challenges in this transitional time, including stress and reduced social support. It is important to understand at this particular age, how weight change can affect well-being.

Key Findings

  • Consistently obese young women, and normal and overweight adolescent girls who became obese had roughly twice the odds of depression onset as young women who were never overweight. Consistent depression was most common among young women who were consistently obese.

  • Supplementary analyses showed no significant relationship between weight change and depression among men. Weight gain and consistent obesity were not associated with depression during adulthood (ages 25–31).

This study shows that weight change was related to depression during the transition to adulthood noting that this physical health risk affects mental well-being at this stage in life.

About the Study:
Using data from two waves of the U.S.-based National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, the sample included 5,243 young women (grades 7 through 12) in 134 schools. Survey data analyzed adolescents ages 13 to 18 in wave 2 (1996) and young adults ages 19 to 25 in wave 3 (2000–2001).