Penn State LogoDepression is a grave problem that may give rise to several health issues. A study claims that depression could increase hormone levels in teenage boys and girls but may result in obesity only in girls. Premature treatment of depression apparently aids in decreasing stress and curbing obesity.

Cortisol, a hormone, may control several metabolic roles in the body and appears to be discharged as a response to stress. Scientists have known for quite some time that depression and cortisol are supposedly associated with obesity, but somehow they had not computed the precise biological mechanism.

Elizabeth J. Susman, the Jean Phillips Shibley professor of biobehavioral health at Penn State, commented, “This is the first time cortisol reactivity has been identified as a mediator between depressed mood and obesity in girls. We really haven’t seen this connection in kids before, but it tells us that there are biological risk factors that are similar for obesity and depression.”

Even though it may not be apparent why elevated cortisol reactions may convert into obesity just for girls, experts are of the opinion that it may be thanks to physiological and behavioral differences, estrogen release and stress eating in girls.The expert observed that if depression were treated before, it may aid in decreasing the level of cortisol, and thus assist in curbing obesity.

Susman mentioned, “The implications are to start treating depression early because we know that depression, cortisol and obesity are related in adults. We know stress is a critical factor in many mental and physical health problems. We are putting together the biology of stress, emotions and a clinical disorder to better understand a major public health problem.”

Susman and her colleagues Lorah D. Dorn, professor of pediatrics, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and Samantha Dockray, postdoctoral fellow, University College London, apparently applied a child behavior checklist to evaluate around 111 boys and girls ages 8 to 13 for symptoms of depression. Subsequently they gauged the children’s obesity and the amount of cortisol in their saliva prior to and post several stress examinations.

Susman remarked, “We had the children tell a story, make up a story and do a mental arithmetic test. The children were also told that judges would evaluate the test results with those of other children.”

It was seen that statistical evaluations of the data may propose that depression may be linked to spikes in cortisol levels for boys and girls following the stress tests, but elevated cortisol reactions to stress could be linked to obesity only in girls.

The findings of the study were published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.