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Objectives Depressive symptoms have been associated with obesity. Little is known about this relationship among immigrants. We examined relationships between depressive symptoms and weight status in immigrant women from three ethnic groups.

Methods Participants were Brazilian, Haitian, and Latina women (n = 345) enrolled in Live Well, a community-based, randomized intervention designed to prevent weight gain in recent immigrants. Study data are from baseline when participants completed the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D), Perceived Stress Scale, a physical activity questionnaire, and socio-demographic questions; BMI was calculated from measured height and weight.

Results Forty-four percent of participants (36 % of Brazilians, 66 % of Haitians, 30 % of Latinas) had high depressive symptoms (CES-D ≥ 16), and 38 % (26 % of Brazilians, 49 % of Haitians, 42 % of Latinas) were obese (BMI ≥ 30.0). Those reporting more depressive symptoms were more likely to be obese (Wald Chi square = 4.82, p < .05). An interaction between depressive symptoms, ethnic group, and income was revealed (F(4,340) = 2.91, p < .05), such that higher depressive symptoms were associated with higher BMI among Brazilians earning ≥$30,000 per year and with lower BMI among Brazilians earning <$30,000. The relationship between depressive symptoms and obesity did not differ by income among Haitians or Latinas.

Conclusions Depressive symptoms and obesity were highly prevalent among these recently-immigrated women. Positive relationships between these variables were consistent across ethnic and income groups, with the exception of lower-income Brazilians. While these findings suggest similar patterns and health needs across several groups of immigrants, cultural differences should be considered when addressing these health conditions.