Although weight loss is associated with better physical health, patients who lost 5% or more of their body weight were more likely to report depressed moods, according to researchers.

“Population-based analyses have found no evidence of psychological benefits of weight loss, but this may be due to inclusion of healthy-weight individuals,” wrote Sarah E. Jackson, of the University College of London in PLOS One.

To assess the association of weight-loss on mental well-being, the investigators studied data from 1,979 overweight and obese patients free of long-standing illness or clinical depression at baseline. Patients were grouped according to four-year weight change into those losing ≥5% weight, those gaining ≥5%, and those whose weight was stable within 5%.

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The proportion of patients reporting depressed mood increased more in the weight loss group compared with the weight stable or weight gain groups (+289%, +86%, +62% respectively; odds ratio for weight loss versus weight stable=1.78; 95% CI: 1.29–2.47).

The proportion of patients with low well-being also increased more in the weight loss group than the other groups (+31%, +22%, −4%), but the difference was not statistically significant (OR=1.16; 95% CI: 0.81–1.66).

“Weight loss over four years in initially healthy overweight/obese older adults was associated with reduction in cardio-metabolic risk but no psychological benefit, even when changes in health and life stresses were accounted for,” concluded the researchers.

“These results highlight the need to investigate the emotional consequences of weight loss.”


  1. Jackson S et al. PLOS One. 2014; doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0104552