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Obesity and depressive symptoms in the elderly: a survey in the rural area of Chizhou, Anhui province


Correspondence to: Fen Huang, PhD, E-mail:



The aim of the present study is to examine the relationship between obesity and depressive symptoms and to test the “Jolly Fat” hypothesis among older Chinese.


A total of 736 rural Chinese aged 60 years and older participated in this cross-sectional study. Body mass index (BMI = kg/m2) was calculated from the subjects' measured weight (kg) and height (meter). Depressive symptoms were assessed using the 30-item Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS-30), with a cut-off point of 11.


Among 736 total participants, the prevalence of depressive symptoms was 24.1% in men and 27.9% in women. A trend about depressive symptoms decreased with increasing BMI was found in men (χ2 trend = 5.74, df = 1, p = 0.01). A weak inverse linear trend between obesity and depressive symptoms was observed among subjects. In men, obese group was less likely to suffer from depressive symptoms compared with normal weight group before or after adjustment for confounders, with odds ratios of 0.32 (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.12–0.85) and 0.28 (95% CI: 0.09–0.85), respectively. However, the association between BMI and depressive symptoms in women showed no significant differences.


Our results supported the “Jolly Fat” hypothesis only in rural older Chinese men, but not in women. Gender differences existed in the relationship between obesity and depressive symptoms. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.