Are Usage of Antidepressants Drugs and Obesity Risk Related?

Antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs have been used for decades as a primary way to treat various mental health disorders. Although the exact success rates of these drugs are controversial, a study submitted to the Food and Drug Administration in 2004 showed that, from a review of published studies, there was a 94 percent overall success rate for the medications. Some studies report lower success rates, around 50 percent, however many of these studies are unpublished.

In addition to concerns over the efficacy of antipsychotic drugs, there has been a long standing debate on whether or not there is a link between obesity, which is a physical disorder, and the usage of these medications. Numerous studies have shown a clear association between certain antipsychotic medications and obesity, however there are still studies that show no association. For example, in June 2009, a Canadian research study used information from the Canadian National Population Health Survey (NPHS) to examine the relationship between major depressive episode (MDE) and risk of obesity. The study is discussed below.

What the NPHS Study Revealed About Antidepressants Drugs and the Risk of Obesity:

  • The study used information from the Canadian National Population Health Survey (NPHS).
  • People who were 18 years and above of age and had BMI of 30 were the participants of the study.
  • The study participants were interviewed from the year 1994 and diagnostic instruments were used to determine if these participants suffered from MDE.
  • The participants used antidepressant drugs and the long term effects of use and their weight gain were analyzed.
  • The study found that the biggest risk of becoming obese is having a BMI in the overweight range (BMI of 25 to 30).
  • Other risk factors included being young, of female gender, leading a sedentary life, belonging to low income group and exposure to medications for depression.

MDE condition was not found to increase the obesity risk. The researchers believed that the association mentioned in the literature represented the fact that obesity increased the risk of MDE but not vice-versa.


The issue of obesity and antipsychotic drugs remains a controversial issue. Although the NPHS study found that antipsychotic medications and tricyclic antidepressant medications had no effect on gaining excess weight, another study by Sicras-Mainar, et al., published in a 2008 journal of “Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment,” discusses clear associations between antipsychotic drugs and weight gain/obesity. In any case, preventative measures should be taken in order to avoid excess weight gain when an individual is prescribed an antipsychotic drug.


Sicras-Mainar. A., et al. “Relationship between obesity and antipsychotic drug use in the adult population: A longitudinal, retrospective claim database study in Primary Care settings.” Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment. 2008; 4(1):219–226.

American Diabetes Association; American Psychiatric Association; American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists; North American Association for the Study of Obesity. “Consensus Development Conference on Antipsychotic Drugs and Obesity and Diabetes.” Diabetes Care. 2004; 27(2):596-601

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