Childhood Trauma Indirectly Tied to Obesity in Women

Children who suffer abuse may benefit from intervention to prevent weight problems as adults

MONDAY, Jan. 31 (HealthDay News) -- Women who experience childhood trauma and go on to develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depressive disorder (MDD) as adults, may be more likely to have weight problems, according to a study published in the December issue of the Journal of Traumatic Stress.

Eric A. Dedert, Ph.D., of the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center in North Carolina, and colleagues investigated the connection between childhood traumatic stress, symptoms of depression and PTSD, and weight outcomes in women. The researchers compared body mass index (BMI) and waist-hip ratio in 148 women with either PTSD, MDD, or neither. Childhood sexual abuse was reported by 45 percent of the participants, and childhood physical abuse was reported by 46 percent of the participants.

Researchers found significant indirect connections between both PTSD and depressive symptoms on BMI and waist-hip ratio. PTSD was shown to have a significant indirect effect on the relationship between a childhood traumatic stress and waist-hip ratio. They did not find a significant link between childhood traumatic stress and obesity, except with regard to physical abuse and BMI.

"Results suggest that children who suffer sexual or physical abuse could benefit from intervention to prevent obesity. The role of both PTSD and MDD in the development of weight problems suggests that screening and early treatment of psychiatric disorders could provide benefits in terms of weight problems and physical health in adulthood in addition to improving mental health," the authors write.

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