High BMI and reduced engagement and enjoyment of pleasant events

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Medicine, Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine

Publication Date


Document Type



Body Mass Index; Behavior; Pleasure; Depression; Reinforcement (Psychology)


Behavioral Disciplines and Activities | Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms | Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Preventive Medicine


While the link between obesity and reduced physical activity is well established, the relationship between obesity and engagement in a wide range of positively reinforcing behaviors has been studied very little. We hypothesized that higher body mass index (BMI) would be associated with diminished engagement in rewarding behavior, and that this relationship would be mediated by depressive symptomatology and/or subjective enjoyment of rewarding behavior. Participants (N = 290; 58% female) completed questionnaires about depression as well as frequency and subjective enjoyment of rewarding behaviors. Hierarchical regression analyses revealed that BMI predicted lower rates of positive reinforcing behavior for females (p < .02) only. Women with higher BMI reported less engagement in rewarding behavior and their disengagement was mediated by a diminished subjective enjoyment of those behaviors (p < .001), but not depressive symptomatology. Obesity among women may be associated with reward deficiency, in which ordinary reinforcers lack potency to induce pleasure.


Pagoto, S.L., Spring, B., Cook, J.W., McChargue, D., & Schneider, K. (2006). High BMI and reduced frequency and enjoyment of pleasant events. Personality and Individual Differences, 40(7), 1421-1431.

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Personality and Individual Differences