Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 51, Issue 2, pp 309–318 | Cite as

Adiposity and psychosocial outcomes at ages 30 and 35

  • Geraldine F. H. McLeod
  • David M. FergussonEmail author
  • L. John Horwood
  • Frances A. Carter
Original Paper



To examine associations between adiposity and adult psychosocial outcomes (depressive symptoms, life satisfaction, self-esteem, household income, personal income, savings/investments) in a New Zealand birth cohort, by gender. Adiposity was assessed using Body Mass Index scores classified on a 3-point scale of BMI: <25.0, overweight (25.0–29.9) or obese (≥30).


Data were gathered via face-to-face and telephone interviews for the Christchurch Health and Development Study (CHDS), comprising a birth cohort of 1265 children born in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1977. BMI and psychosocial outcome information was collected in 2007 (30 years; n = 977) and in 2012 (35 years; n = 923).


Population-averaged regression modeling showed evidence of statistically significant (p < 0.05) associations between increasing adiposity and adverse psychosocial outcomes for females, but not for males. After adjustment for child and family background covariates the strength of the associations for females was reduced; with four associations (depressive symptoms, life satisfaction, equivalized household income and savings/investments) remaining statistically significant (p < 0.05). In contrast, for males there was a significant (p = 0.008) positive association between adiposity and higher personal net weekly income after covariate adjustment.


The findings suggest evidence of gender differences in the associations between adiposity and psychosocial outcomes. For females, there were small but pervasive tendencies for increasing adiposity to be related to more adverse mental health, psychological well-being and economic outcomes; whereas for males adiposity was either unrelated to these outcomes, or in the case of personal income, associated with greater economic advantage. The implications of these findings are discussed.


Obesity Adiposity BMI Depression Psychosocial outcomes Gender 



This research was funded by grants from the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC 11/792), the National Child Health Research Foundation, the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation and the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

127_2015_1101_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (140 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 140 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Geraldine F. H. McLeod
    • 1
  • David M. Fergusson
    • 1
    Email author
  • L. John Horwood
    • 1
  • Frances A. Carter
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Christchurch Health and Development Study, Department of Psychological MedicineUniversity of OtagoChristchurchNew Zealand
  2. 2.Department of Psychological MedicineUniversity of OtagoChristchurchNew Zealand
  3. 3.Canterbury District Health BoardChristchurchNew Zealand

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