DIFFERENCES IN SEVERITY OF DEPRESSION SYMPTOMS IN OVERWEIGHT AND OBESE PALESTINIAN ADOLSCENTS. EFFECTS OF WEIGHT, SEX AND AGE
Background: Depression is of the most significant obesity- related psychological disorders. Previous studies have found a bi-directional relationship between obesity and depression symptoms among children and adolescents. Most of these studies were conducted in Western countries. Their findings regarding the effects of gender and age on this relationship were inconsistent. This study has examined the relationship between weight and depression symptoms in addition to the effects which gender and age have on depression among Palestinian children and adolescents. Methodology: Data were collected from 90 Palestinian school students aged 9-16. Of these, 30 had normal weight, 30 had over-weight and 30 were obese (defined by CDC curves). About half of the participants were girls, and about half of them had an obese family member. After a school nurse measured their BMI, the participants completed depression, demographic and weight test questionnaires. Results: After data analysis, it was found that over-weight and obese participants exhibited worse depression (of all types) than those with a normal weight but the differences between them were insignificant. The only gender effect found was in the mood and body image scale. Of all obese participants, the girls exhibited worse symptoms than boys. In contrast, only the overweight participants showed a small opposite trend. Regarding age, effects were found only in depression total scale and in inactivity symptoms. In these scales, of all overweight participants, adolescents exhibited worse symptoms than children, while the opposite trend was found among obese participants. Conclusion: These findings showed that over-weight and obese Palestinian children reported suffering from depression and thus interventions should take this into account. In particular, it seems that over-weight boys or adolescents need more direct help/ intervention to lose weight while obese girls or children who feel more helpless about their weight need more medical and emotional support. Keywords: Depression; over-weight; obesity; body-image; weight-stigma; adolescents; collective culture; gender-roles.