Dissertations and Theses

Date of Award


Document Type




First Advisor

Sarah O'Neill


ADHD, obesity, depression, anxiety, stress, self-esteem


This study’s objective was to investigate if ADHD symptoms and BMI are associated with internalizing impairments of depression, anxiety, stress and lower self-esteem in college students. It was predicted that higher ADHD symptoms would be associated with elevated depression, anxiety, stress, and low self-esteem, especially if BMI fell in the overweight/obese range. Undergraduate students [N= 580; Mean (SD) age= 20.7 (3.10)] from an urban campus completed an online survey comprising self-report measures of demographics, height/weight, attention and hyperactivity/impulsivity (Barkley Deficits Executive Functioning Scale ADHD- Executive Function Index), depression, anxiety, stress (all using the Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale) and self- esteem (Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale). Individuals were grouped based on their BMI and ADHD severity. They were classified as: “Controls” (Low ADHD/Low BMI), “High BMI” only (High BMI/Low ADHD), “High ADHD” only (High ADHD/Low BMI) and “Comorbid” (High ADHD/High BMI). Chi-square analyses showed that High ADHD and High BMI were not significantly related. Second, greater ADHD, but not BMI was significantly related to depression and stress, and lower self-esteem. BMI was only significantly related to the internalizing impairment of anxiety. Main effects of ADHD and BMI on anxiety were qualified by a significant ADHD x BMI interaction. Students with both elevated in ADHD symptoms and overweight/obesity were at highest risk for elevated anxiety. These findings can contribute to the diagnostic and treatment procedure of those with ADHD, obesity and comorbid disorders. This study adds to the literature by collectively concentrating on variables of ADHD, obesity and internalizing factors, in a non-clinical college student sample.



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