Stress Triggers Obesity in Girls

If parents need another good reason for helping their daughters manage stress and depression, a new obesity link study seems to demand it. It’s no secret that obesity is a major health issue in America, and according to the CDC “childhood obesity has more then tripled in the last 30 years.” Overweight girls are more likely to remain obese in adulthood; plus they are at a higher risk for developing various health problems, including Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Being overweight can be emotionally devastating for a young girl trying to fit in socially at school, where the pressure to be thin is omnipresent.

According to research in the Journal of Adolescent Health, depression raises stress hormone levels in adolescent boys and girls, but may lead to obesity only in girls. Scientists suggest that early treatment of depression could help reduce stress and control obesity for girls at risk.

Symptoms of depression were assessed in 111 children 8 to 13 years old, and cortisol levels were measured in saliva before and after stress tests, along with BMI. Although it is still unclear why cortisol reactions are linked to obesity only in girls, scientists believe the physiological and behavioral differences in the way boys and girls cope with anxiety may be to blame.

Childhood and teen depression is a serious health issue, as is obesity. The key to helping young girls is teaching them coping skills to handle stress that don’t involve eating.

Samantha Dockray, Elizabeth J. Susman, Lorah D. Dorn, ‘Depression, Cortisol Reactivity, and Obesity in Childhood and Adolescence’, Journal of Adolescent Health, October 2009, 45(4), 344-350; doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2009.06.014

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