Graduation Date

Summer 8-14-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Mary Cramer

Second Advisor

Julia Houfek

Third Advisor

Shinobu Watanabe-Galloway


Background: Individuals with most forms of mental illness have higher rates of obesity than members of the general public putting them at an increased risk for many physical health problems that reduce both quality of life and life expectancy. The presence of multiple comorbid psychiatric disorders has been associated with poorer clinical outcomes in other mental health measures such as disability and sobriety and is proposed as a risk factor for elevated BMI (body mass index) in this study.

Objective: Determine if multiple psychiatric comorbidities are associated with elevated BMI and, if so, which combinations are linked with the greatest risk.

Design: A secondary analysis of the Collaborative Psychiatric Epidemiology Surveys dataset. The psychiatric disorder group (N=7,355) included individuals reporting symptoms of one or more mental illnesses. Controls (N=12,658) included subjects reporting no symptoms suggesting the presence of a psychiatric disorder. BMI was examined using descriptive statistics, t-tests, and Chi-square analyses.

Results: The number of comorbid psychiatric disorders an individual had was associated with BMI. In particular, bipolar disorder, agoraphobia, panic disorder, and attention-deficit hyperactivity (ADHD) disorder had the greatest number of association and the largest effect sizes.

Conclusion: Medical professionals should monitor patients more closely for weight gain when they have multiple psychiatric disorders. Patients with bipolar disorder, agoraphobia, panic disorder, and ADHD should be of particular concern.