Body Mass Index and Depressive Symptoms: Testing for Adverse and Protective Associations in Two Twin Cohort Studies

Markus Jokela*, Venla Berg, Karri Silventoinen, G. David Batty, Archana Singh-Manoux, Jaakko Kaprio, George Davey Smith, Mika Kivimäki

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
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Studies have suggested both adverse and protective associations of obesity with depressive symptoms. We examined the contribution of environmental and heritable factors in this association. Participants were same-sex twin pairs from two population-based twin cohort studies, the Older Finnish Twin Cohort (n = 8,215; mean age = 44.1) and the US Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS; n = 1,105; mean age = 45.1). Body mass index (BMI) was calculated from self-reported height and weight. Depressive symptoms were assessed using Beck's Depression Inventory (BDI; Finnish Twin Cohort), and by negative and positive affect scales (MIDUS). In the Finnish Twin Cohort, higher BMI was associated with higher depressive symptoms in monozygotic (MZ) twins (B = 2.01, 95% CI = 1.0, 3.0) and dizygotic (DZ) twins (B = 1.17, 0.5, 1.9) with BMI >22. This association was observed in within-pair analysis in DZ twins (B = 1.47, CI = 0.4, 2.6) but not in within-pair analysis of MZ twins (B = 0.03, CI = -1.9, 2.0). Consistent with the latter result, a bivariate genetic model indicated that the association between higher BMI and higher depressive symptoms was largely mediated by genetic factors. The results of twin-pair analysis and bivariate genetic model were replicated in the MIDUS sample. These findings suggest an association between obesity and higher depressive symptoms, which is largely explained by shared heritable biological mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)306-311
Number of pages6
JournalTwin Research and Human Genetics
Issue number4
Early online date8 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016


  • depression
  • epidemiology
  • mental health
  • obesity
  • twin study


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