Document Type


Publication Title

Journal of Health Psychology

Publication Date

Fall 11-9-2016

First Page


Last Page


Volume Number


Abstract/ Summary

Several investigators have observed lowered risk of depression among obese older adults, coining the “jolly fat” hypothesis. We examined this hypothesis using baseline and a 5-year follow-up body mass index, depressive symptoms, and covariates from 638 community-based older adults. High objectively measured body mass index and functional limitations predicted increased future depressive symptoms. However, symptoms did not predict future body mass index. Self-reported body mass index showed similar associations despite underestimating obesity prevalence. Results did not differ on the basis of gender. Results for this study, the first longitudinal reciprocal risk analysis between objectively measured body mass index and depressive symptoms among older adults, do not support the “jolly fat” hypothesis.

Citation/Publisher Attribution

Dearborn, P.J., Robbins, M.A. & Elias, M.F. (2016) Challenging the “jolly fat” hypothesis among older adults: High body mass index predicts increases in depressive symptoms over a 5-year period. Journal of Health Psychology 21, 1-11. doi: 10.1177/1359105316675209

Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2017 by SAGE Publications




pre-print (i.e. pre-refereeing)