Well-Being Prevention & Cures

Depression and anxiety led to weight gain among people living with obesity during pandemic

“The COVID-19 pandemic is a fascinating model for individual and social stress and showed that changes in mental health can really preclude people from maintaining a healthy body weight.”
cdc centers for disease control and prevention obesity 2017-2018 america us adults
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Story at a glance


  • For the study, researchers surveyed more than 400 people — all had been seen at one of three clinics for obesity in the previous two years — between March and November 2021 as the delta variant surged. 

  • They found most participants gained 4.3 percent of their body weight, while almost one-third gained more than 5 percent. 

  • Some gained more than 25 percent.

People living with obesity who experienced high levels of depression, anxiety and stress reported gaining the most weight during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new study

“The COVID-19 pandemic is a fascinating model for individual and social stress and showed that changes in mental health can really preclude people from maintaining a healthy body weight,” Jaime Almandoz, associate professor of Internal Medicine in the Division of Endocrinology at The University of Texas Southwestern and the study’s author, said in a media release

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows around 42 percent of Americans are living with obesity.  

For the study, researchers surveyed more than 400 people — all had been seen at one of three clinics for obesity in the previous two years — between March and November 2021 as the delta variant surged.  

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Researchers found most participants gained 4.3 percent of their body weight, while almost one-third gained more than 5 percent. Some participants gained more than 25 percent, according to the research.  

Almost half of the participants lived in households with an income greater than $75,000, which Almandoz said shows these “stresses are likely amplified in the general population.” 

Although diet and exercise played a major role in participants weight gain, researchers found mental health issues were a major driver among those who gained the most.  

“Our findings underscore the complexity of obesity; it’s not just about telling people to eat less and move more,” Almandoz said. “There’s a mental health aspect that has to be integrated into treating the whole person as well.”