Personality disorders and body weight

Johanna Catherine Maclean, Haiyong Xu, Michael T. French, Susan L. Ettner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


We examine the impact of Axis II personality disorders (PDs) on body weight. PDs are psychiatric conditions that develop early in life from a mixture of genetics and environment, are persistent, and lead to substantial dysfunction for the affected individual. The defining characteristics of PDs conceptually link them with body weight, but the direction of the relationship likely varies across PD type. To investigate these links, we analyze data from Wave II of the National Epidemiological Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions. We measure body weight with the body mass index (BMI) and a dichotomous indicator for obesity (BMI ≥ 30). We find that women with PDs have significantly higher BMI and are more likely to be obese than otherwise similar women. We find few statistically significant or economically meaningful effects for men. Paranoid, schizotypal, and avoidant PDs demonstrate the strongest adverse impacts on women's body weight while dependent PD may be protective against elevated body weight among men. Findings from unconditional quantile regressions demonstrate a positive gradient between PDs and BMI in that the effects are greater for higher BMI respondents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-171
Number of pages19
JournalEconomics and Human Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014


  • Body mass index (BMI)
  • Obesity
  • Personality disorders
  • Quantile regression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)


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