Is obesity associated with increased symptoms of psychiatric morbidity among Indian adolescents?
The relationship between obesity and mental health disorders has not been explored among adolescents in India. Although evidence from western countries has failed to demonstrate conclusive associations, a tremendous increase in the prevalence of obesity and overweight among urban adolescents in India, along with an absolute lack of studies into mental health of Indian adolescents, necessitate the need for research in this population. This present study used data collected from 861 urban 6th and 8th graders from Delhi, India and tested for the associations of weight status with psychiatric symptomatology and other weight related behaviors. The Strengths and Difficulties questionnaire (SDQ) was used to collect data on psychiatric symptoms. Falling into the overweight or obese category was hypothesized to be associated with borderline or abnormal scores on the SDQ scales. Results indicated a high prevalence for overweight/obesity among the population (>30%). No significant associations were demonstrated between weight status and borderline/abnormal SDQ scores on all the scales. However, significant associations were found between sedentary behaviors (screen time >2 hrs daily), positive and negative weight-control behaviors and borderline/abnormal SDQ scores on various scales. In light of these new findings, a further exploration of the relationship in this population is indicated.