• depression;
  • weight;
  • adolescents


Objective: The objective of this study is to examine whether adolescents’ measured BMI and self- or mother's perception of weight status at age 14 are associated with depression at age 21.

Research Methods and Procedures: The study participants were a subsample of 2017 participants of the Mater–University of Queensland Study of Pregnancy and Its Outcomes, a population-based birth cohort study, which commenced in 1981 in Brisbane, Australia, for whom measured BMI at ages 14 and 21 and information on self-reported mental health problems were available at the age 21 follow-up. A total of 1802 individuals had measured BMI and reported weight perception in a supplementary questionnaire at 14 years, and their self-reported mental health problems were reported at 21 years. Mental health was measured using Center for Epidemiology Studies Depression Scale and Young Adults Self-Reported depression/anxiety at 21 years of age.

Results: We found that both young adult males and females who perceived themselves as overweight at age 14 had more mental health problems compared with those who perceived themselves as the right weight. When we combined adolescents’ weight perception with their measured BMI categories, weight perception but not measured overweight was associated with mental health problems for males and females at age 21. This association remained after adjusting for potential confounders, including adolescents’ behavioral problems, family meals, diet, physical activity, and television watching.

Conclusions: This study suggests that the perception of being overweight during adolescence is a significant risk factor for depression in young adult men and women. The perception of being overweight during adolescence should be considered a possible target for a prevention intervention.