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How Obesity Can Affect Mental Health in Senior Citizens


More and more Americans are watching the scales slowly creep up. You have most likely heard the headlines that American adults and children are heavier overall than a couple decades ago, with incidents of overweight and obesity becoming more common.

There are multiple causes for being overweight, including lack of physical exercise, overeating, eating too much of the types of foods that encourage weight gain, side effects of some medications, and various medical conditions. After the age of 40, men and women both begin losing muscle mass at a greater rate, making it harder to keep weight down without also making significant changes in diet and exercise regimens.

Weight issues affect senior citizens as much as they do in younger people but with a few additional negative consequences. Being an overweight or obese senior citizen who lacks muscle definition and agility can lead to a greater chance of falling and injuring oneself as well as medical issues like type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, hypertension, stroke, osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, sleeping problems, asthma, skin conditions, some types of cancer, and a host of other negative physical consequences that lead to increased deterioration and fragility. You can also add a greater chance of depression, eating disorders, low self-esteem, and a distorted body image to that list.

Seniors between the ages of 60 and 74 are four times more likely to suffer depression concurrently with obesity than younger people. For all age groups, it’s clear that depression and obesity can feed off of each other, creating a vicious cycle. For some, obesity can trigger depression—especially when low self-esteem associated with weight as well as being treated differently or poorly because of one’s weight comes into play. For others, depression can trigger obesity when a lack of concern for oneself encourages overeating or bad eating as well as deterring physical exercise. Additionally, about 25% of people who take anti-depressants will experience weight gain as a side effect.

Helping overweight or obese seniors to gain a more health body composition can also help to greatly reduce many of the ills we normally associate with aging. Lifestyle intervention by family, friends, caretakers, therapists, and doctors will assist the senior to take on a more active role in his health. Setting goals, changing diet to include mainly whole foods, getting more exercise, and finding meaningful activities with which to occupy oneself are all examples of positive changes that can lead to weight loss, muscle gain, and better mental health.

Dallas Behavioral Healthcare Hospital works closely with senior citizens, offering both inpatient and outpatient programs that address mental health issues specific to this age group. In addition, we offer programs for adolescents and children as well as assist people who suffer from substance abuse. Please visit our Homepage for more information about our geriatric and other services, or call (855) 982-0897 for a free and confidential assessment.