2007-09-12 / Health

Georgia obesity and mental illness linked

ATLANTA - With Georgia's recent ranking as one of the most obese states in the country, it is likely that a significant number of Georgians may also suffer from a mental illness. Nearly one out of four cases of obesity is associated with major depression, bipolar and panic disorders according to a 2006 report published by the Archives of General Psychiatry. In the general population, one in five is affected by mental illness. It is estimated that more than 60% of Georgians are obese - individuals who weigh 20 to 100% above their ideal body weight.

"What is not clear is which condition comes first: the psychiatric disorder or the obesity," stated Donald Manning, Acting Medical Director for the Georgia Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Addictive Diseases. "Research has not confirmed whether depressed people become obese because they self-medicate with food and feel less motivated to exercise, or if obese people feel anxious and depressed because they are overweight."

In addition to obesity, people with mental illness are often at a higher risk for cholesterol problems, hypertension and diabetes. People with mental illness who receive help through MHDDAD hospital and community-based services get extensive screening for problems associated with obesity. As part of the treatment plan, clients receive extensive education on weight management, are placed on special diets and their overall health is regularly monitored. In March 2005, Governor Sonny Perdue and DHR launched the Live Healthy Georgia campaign, an initiative designed to raise awareness about how to: Be Active, Eat Healthy, Be Smoke Free, Get Checked, and Be Positive. The principal message of the campaign is that moderate lifestyle changes such as improving food choices and getting more physical activity can have a significant impact on health. For more information about the Live Healthy Georgia Campaign visit www. livehealthygeorgia.org. 5 Information on statewide mental health services can be accessed through the Georgia Crisis & Access Line at 1-800-715-4225 or mygcal.com.

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