Volume 95, Issue 2

Thursday, May 31, 2001


France knights Davenport

Summer Games preparations continue

Eating disorder clinic opens at Western

No smokes for you - restaurants smoke-free by 2002

USC and union reach agreement

Robin Hood fanatics invade Western

Study: obesity affects mental health

News Briefs

Study: obesity affects mental health

By Jessica Leeder
Gazette Staff

Never mind worrying about what drugs will do to your brain. For now, just worry about those French fries you had for lunch.

According to a new study from the University of Toronto, obesity has a significant impact on both quality of life and mental health.

"People with a higher weight perceive their quality of life as lesser than others who weigh less or are not considered to be obese," said Kostas Trakas, a PhD candidate at the U of T.

Trakas used data from Statistics Canada's National Population Health Survey from 1996 and 1997 to measure the perceived health of 38,151 respondents, including their hearing, speech, mobility and emotion.

Their self-reports were then compared with their body mass index, a measure of height and weight that may indicate whether or not a person is obese, overweight, underweight or at his or her target weight.

The study, published in May's issue of the International Journal of Obesity, excluded several groups, including pregnant women and people on First Nations Reserves.

According to Anne Kennedy, president of the National Institute of Nutrition, the findings of the study are not atypical of obesity literature.

"[Obesity] has an effect on self-esteem and it is not uncommon for obese people to be discriminated against because of their weight, though there is no scientific evidence that obesity is caused by laziness. Obesity is a multifactorial condition with a strong genetic component as well as lifestyle and environmental factors," Kennedy said.

While Trakas' study shows obesity has a correlation with perceived poor health, Kennedy said such perceptions are often false.

"A lot of our thinking on obesity comes about because of our fashion industry and our stereotypes, but there is substantial information suggesting that obese people can be healthier than their ultra-thin counterparts," she said.

A Western professor from the department of psychology, Rod Martin, said to further this study, one needs to test the participants more objectively rather than relying solely on self-reports.

"This study doesn't really tell us as much as it appears to on the surface," Martin explained, adding the public needs to be more skeptical about such research findings.

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