Greater body mass is associated with a greater risk of mental health conditions and more frequent mental health treatment use. However, factors that might influence perceived mental health treatment need and mental health treatment use among those of greater weight (including hope thinking, trauma history, and perceived mental health treatment stigma) are not well understood. The objective of a study conducted by Dr. Peter S. Hendricks, assistant professor in the department of health behavior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, in collaboration with Dr. Andrea N. Hendricks, credentialed course instructor in UAB’s department of psychology—along with his department colleagues Dr. Emily J. Dhurandhar, assistant professor, and Dr. Kevin R. Fontaine, professor and chair—was to determine if hope thinking, trauma history, and/or perceived mental health treatment stigma mediate the relationships of body mass index (BMI) with perceived mental health treatment need and mental health treatment use.
[Photo: Dr. Peter S. Hendricks]
A total of 196 primary care clinic patients in the Midwest region of the United States (BMI ranging from 18.5 to 47.0, with a median of 27.90) were recruited to complete a battery of self-report measures that assessed perceived mental health treatment need, mental health treatment use, hope thinking (Trait Hope Scale), trauma history (a single-item traumatic event history screen from the posttraumatic stress disorder module of the Structured Clinical Interview for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition), and perceived mental health treatment stigma (Stigma Scale for Receiving Psychological Help). The researchers found that reduced hope thinking and a greater incidence of past trauma accounted for greater perceived mental health treatment need and greater mental health treatment use among those of greater BMI. BMI was not related to perceived unmet mental health treatment need.
They concluded that increased perceived mental health treatment need and mental health treatment use among those of greater BMI may be explained by lower hope thinking and a greater incidence of trauma in this population. Heavier patients may benefit from interventions designed to augment hope and address traumatic histories.
“Hope Thinking and Past Trauma Mediate the Relationships of Body Mass Index with Perceived Mental Health Treatment Need and Mental Health Treatment Use” was published online in January 2015 in the journal Clinical Obesity.