Depressive symptoms and increased visceral fat in middle-aged women

Susan A. Everson-Rose, Tené T. Lewis, Kelly Karavolos, Sheila A. Dugan, Deidre Wesley, Lynda H. Powell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Objective: To examine whether depressive symptoms are differentially associated with visceral adipose tissue (VAT), which is more metabolically active and confers greater cardiovascular risk than subcutaneous fat (SAT). Prior research has shown an association between depression and central adiposity. Mechanisms underlying the association between depression and increased cardiovascular risk remain poorly understood. Central adiposity is one potential pathway. Methods: We investigated the cross-sectional association between depressive symptoms, assessed by the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D), and VAT and SAT, assessed by computed tomography, in a sample of 409 middle-aged women (44.7% African-Americans, 55.3% Whites; mean age = 50.4 years) participating in the Chicago site of the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN). Results: With adjustments for age, race, total percent fat, and sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), each 1-point higher score on the CES-D was associated with 1.03-cm2 greater VAT (p < .001). Women with a CES-D score of ≥ 16, indicative of clinically relevant depressive symptomatology, had 24.5% more VAT than women with lower CES-D scores (p < .001). Further adjustment for Framingham Risk Score and physical activity did not alter the findings, and associations did not vary by race. Associations were strongest in obese and overweight women. Depressive symptoms were unrelated to SAT. Conclusions: Increased visceral fat may be one pathway by which depression contributes to excess risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Further research is needed to examine whether depressive symptoms influence accumulation of VAT over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)410-416
Number of pages7
JournalPsychosomatic medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2009


  • Abdominal obesity
  • African-American
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Women's health

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