Background

Symptoms of depression and obesity in childhood have long been linked and some suggest there may be shared underlying pathways between the two.Pediatric pain has been associated with symptoms of depression but less research has examined the impact of pain on youth with obesity or the relationship between pain, depression and obesity.

Methods

Participants were 103 youth between the ages of 7 to 19 who were undergoing evaluation in a Stage 3 pediatric obesity program (average age 13.28; 53% female; 33% Caucasian; 53% African American or Hispanic/Latino).Information on weight, mood and behavior were evaluated.

Results

Approximately 75% of youth reported pain on entry with 44% reporting pain in more than one location.No relationships were seen between a measure of pain burden and age, Body Mass Index (BMI), or BMI z-score.However, pain burden was correlated with increased symptoms of depression, disordered eating and inattention. A hierarchical regression analysis was carried out to predict symptoms of depression from pain burden symptoms, while holding the effects of BMI, BMI z-score, inattention, disordered eating, and symptoms of externalizing and internalizing behaviors constant.

Conclusions

The results indicated that when the effects of these variables were statistically removed, pain burden symptoms still contributed a significant amount of the variance in self-reported symptoms of depression (p < .01).Pain is an understudied topic in the area of pediatric obesity treatment.However, results suggest that it is a critical component in the presentation of youth presenting to weight management treatment programs and should be evaluated and treated.