National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Teen Stress Linked to Depression and Obesity

March 10, 2010

A new study in the Journal of Adolescent Health suggests that early diagnosis and treatment of major depression in adolescents could help lessen stress and control obesity.

Researchers used a child behavior checklist to evaluate 111 boys and girls ages 8 to 13 for symptoms of depression. They then measured the children’s obesity and cortisol levels in their saliva before and after a number of stress tests.

The body releases cortisol, a hormone that controls many of the body’s metabolic functions, as a response to stress. In the study, researchers discovered that depression raises stress hormone levels in teen boys and girls. For adolescent girls specifically, elevated coristol levels may lead to obesity. Although researches do not know definitively why high cortisol reactions lead to obesity only for girls, some think it may be related to physiological and behavioral differences in the way girls and boys cope with anxiety.

Additional Resources:

NAMI Depression Web site

NAMI Hearts & Minds Program