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Heaviness, health and happiness: a cross-sectional study of 163066 UK Biobank participants
  1. Zia Ul-Haq1,5,
  2. Daniel F Mackay1,
  3. Daniel Martin1,
  4. Daniel J Smith1,
  5. Jason M R Gill1,
  6. Barbara I Nicholl1,
  7. Breda Cullen1,
  8. Jonathan Evans1,
  9. Beverly Roberts2,
  10. Ian J Deary2,
  11. John Gallacher3,
  12. Matthew Hotopf4,
  13. Nick Craddock3,
  14. Jill P Pell1
  1. 1University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  2. 2University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  3. 3University of Cardiff, Cardiff, UK
  4. 4Kings College London, London, UK
  5. 5Khyber Medical University, Peshawar, Pakistan
  1. Correspondence to Professor Jill Pell, Henry Mechan Professor of Public Health, Institute of Health & Wellbeing, University of Glasgow, 1 Lilybank Gardens, Glasgow, G12 8RZ, UK; jill.pell{at}


Background Obesity is known to increase the risk of many diseases and reduce overall quality of life. This study examines the relationship with self-reported health (SRH) and happiness.

Methods We conducted a cross-sectional study of the 163 066 UK Biobank participants who completed the happiness rating. The association between adiposity and SRH and happiness was examined using logistic regression. SRH was defined as good (excellent, good), or poor (fair, poor). Self-reported happiness was defined as happy (extremely, very, moderately) or unhappy (moderately, very, extremely).

Results Poor health was reported by 44 457 (27.3%) participants. The adjusted ORs for poor health were 3.86, 2.92, 2.60 and 6.41 for the highest, compared with lowest, deciles of Body Mass Index, waist circumference, waist to hip ratio and body fat percent, respectively. The associations were stronger in men (p<0.001). Overall, 7511 (4.6%) participants felt unhappy, and only class III obese participants were more likely to feel unhappy (adjusted OR 1.33, 95% CI 1.15 to 1.53, p<0.001) but the associations differed by sex (p<0.001). Among women, there was a significant association between unhappiness and all levels of obesity. By contrast, only class III obese men had significantly increased risk and overweight and class I obese men were less likely to be unhappy.

Conclusions Obesity impacts adversely on happiness as well as health, but the association with unhappiness disappeared after adjustment for self-reported health, indicating this may be mediated by health. Compared with obese men, obese women are less likely to report poor health, but more likely to feel unhappy.


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