Obesity reported in sufferers of childhood abuse
According to a report in the July issue of Pediatrics, women who have experienced sexual abuse in childhood are significantly more likely to be obese with onset occurring during the early 20’s. The study focused on 84 sexually abused females ages 6-16 that had experienced childhood sexual abuse and 89 females within the same demographic that had never experienced abuse. The study, which began in 1987 and ended in 2006, found that 42 percent of the abused population was obese by the mean age of 24, whereas 28 percent of the control group was obese by the same age. Additionally, the study found that obesity progressively increased after its onset in the early 20’s. The following is an excerpt of an article from Psychiatric News that discusses the study:
An association between sexual abuse and later obesity has been suspected for years. A new prospective study illuminates the extent of such a connection.
Girls who were sexually abused are more likely to become obese than those who were not abused, but that difference does not show up until early adulthood, according to a report in the July Pediatrics.
Clinicians should not only treat young victims of abuse but should maintain a close watch on increasing body mass index (BMI) at least into their patients’ early 20s, said the researchers.
However, they do not argue that there is a causal link between sexual abuse and obesity or that obesity is an inevitable outcome of abuse.
“We simply wish to underscore the need for systematic study of the mechanistic and mediating processes that would help to explain the connection between childhood abuse and late obesity,” wrote Jennie Noll, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at the Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center and the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, and colleagues.
In application, doctors and clinicians should keep a close watch on the body mass index of patients that have experienced abuse.