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Study Examines Link Between Childhood Abuse and Obesity in Women

Women with a history of childhood physical abuse are more likely to become obese adults, according to a new study by University of Toronto researchers.

Results indicate that women who were physically abused in childhood were more likely to be obese than women from non-abusive homes.

“After adjusting for age and race, childhood physical abuse was associated with 47% higher odds of obesity for women,” says lead author Esme Fuller-Thomson, professor and Sandra Rotman Endowed Chair in the University of Toronto's Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work. “Among men, obesity wasn’t associated with childhood physical abuse.”

“We had anticipated that the association between childhood physical abuse and obesity among women would be explained by factors including depression and anxiety, adult socioeconomic position, alcohol abuse, and other childhood adversities, such as having a parent addicted to drugs or alcohol,” says study coauthor and doctoral student Deborah Sinclair. “However, even after taking into account all these factors, women from physically abusive families still had 35% higher odds of obesity.”

The study could not determine the reason for the relationship between childhood physical abuse and women’s obesity. “It is unclear why childhood physical abuse is associated with adult obesity among women but not men; it may reflect gender differences in coping mechanisms,” says study coauthor and doctoral candidate Sarah Brennenstuhl.

— Source: University of Toronto