• obesity;
  • depression;
  • emotional eating;
  • binge eating;
  • ecological momentary assessment



Although there is a modest relation between obesity and depression, mechanisms that contribute to this co-occurrence are unclear. This study examined mood and eating behavior among obese adults with and without elevated depression symptoms.


Obese adults (N = 50) were subtyped according to a Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) cutoff of 14, indicating “probable depression.” Participants with (BDI ≥ 14; n = 15) and without (BDI < 14; n = 35) elevated depression symptoms were compared on affect- and eating-related variables measured via questionnaire and ecological momentary assessment (EMA) using ANCOVA and mixed model regression.


After adjusting for group differences in body mass index (BMI; p = .03), participants with elevated depression symptoms reported greater emotional eating via self-report questionnaire [F(1,50) = 4.3; p = .04], as well as more frequent binge eating (Wald χ2 = 13.8; p < .001) and higher daily negative affect (Wald χ2 = 7.7; p = .005) on EMA recordings. Emotional eating mediated the relationship between depression status and BMI (indirect effect estimate = 3.79; 95% CI = 1.02–7.46).


Emotional eating and binge eating were more commonly reported by obese adults with elevated depression symptoms compared to those without and may occur against a general backdrop of overall low mood. Intervention and prevention programs for obesity and/or depression should address disordered eating to prevent or minimize adverse health consequences. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. (Int J Eat Disord 2014; 47:281–286)