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September 15, 1962

Obesity, Social Class, and Mental Illness

Author Affiliations

Philadelphia; Brooklyn, N.Y.
From the Departments of Psychiatry and Medicine, University of Pennsylvania (Drs. Moore and Stunkard), and the Department of Psychiatry, State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center ( Dr. Srole ).

JAMA. 1962;181(11):962-966. doi:10.1001/jama.1962.03050370030007

The relationship between obesity and mental health was investigated, using data obtained from 1,660 persons selected as representative of 110,000 inhabitants of a residential area of New York City. In addition to confirming the previously noted relationship between obesity and age, preliminary analysis revealed a striking relationship between obesity and socioeconomic status of origin. The prevalence of obesity was 7 times higher among women reared in the lowest social class category as compared with those reared in the highest category. Scores made by the obese respondents on 9 mental health indices were compared with scores made by individuals of average weight. The obese respondents made more pathological scores on 8 of the 9 measures and on 3 of these the difference was statistically significant ("immaturity," "rigidity," and "suspiciousness").

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