Mental health decline during the COVID-19 pandemic associated with weight gain in obese patients

In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 30% of obese patients gained 5% or more in body weight, and 1 in 7 gained 10% or more. Diet and exercise habits were factors, but people with the highest levels of stress, anxiety and depression reported gaining the most weight, the UT Southwestern researchers reported in the journal. obesity.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a fascinating model of personal and social stress, and has shown that changes in mental health can prevent people from maintaining a healthy weight. ”

Jaime Almandoz, MD, MBA, FTOS, Study Author, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, Department of Endocrinology, UT Southwestern

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 42% of American adults are obese, putting them at an increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and many cancers.

Early in the pandemic, clinicians treating obesity suspected lockdowns, social isolation, reduced access to healthcare, and changes in food availability were negatively impacting many patients. started.

In 2020, Dr. Armandos and colleagues at the UT Southwestern Weight Wellness Program and UT Health Center for Pediatric Population Health published for the first time the impact of stay-at-home orders on health behaviors and mental health in obese people. They found that about 70% of patients said they had more difficulty meeting their weight loss goals during the initial pandemic lockdown, nearly half exercised less and stocked up on food, and 61% stressed. A second study found that obese patients also had increased rates of recreational drug and alcohol use.

In the new paper, the team surveyed 404 people during the Delta variant surge from March to November 2021. All participants had undergone obesity treatment at his one of his three clinics in Dallas in the past two years and had a body mass index (BMI). of at least 30.

On average, respondents gained 4.3% of their weight during the pandemic. Nearly a third of people reported gains of 5% or more, and some people gained 25% or more, or up to 80 pounds. , the stress and hardship reported was staggering, with almost half having household incomes above $75,000 and nearly 60% having college degrees.

“People who are enrolled in a weight management program usually lose weight,” says Dr. Almandoz. “If people with these levels of privilege are experiencing significant challenges during the pandemic, these stresses could be amplified in the general population.”

When researchers looked at the factors associated with weight gain, they found that people who ate unhealthy meals and got less sleep and exercise tended to gain weight. was correlated with Those who benefited the most reported the highest levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. Poor mental health was still associated with weight gain, even when other factors were controlled for.

“Our findings highlight the complexity of obesity. Obesity does more than tell people to eat less and exercise more,” said Dr. Almandoz. “There are also aspects of mental health that must be integrated into the treatment of the whole person.”

Almandoz said the new findings will help clinicians better screen for mental health problems in patients who notice weight gain and refer patients to programs that integrate mental health treatment, such as UT Southwestern’s Weight Wellness Program. hope it helps.

Other researchers involved in this study include Luyu Xie, Jeffrey N. Schellinger, M. Sunil Mathew, Elisa Morales Marroquin, Natia Murvelashvili, Shreeya Khatiwada, Carrie McAdams, Sarah E. Messiah, UTSW and UT Health Science Center All included. Sachin Kukreja of Minimally Invasive Surgical Associates in Dallas.


UT Southwestern Medical Center

Journal reference:

Armandos, JP, and others. (2022) Changes in weight, health behaviors, and mental health among obese adults during the COVID-19 pandemic. obesity.

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