January 18, 2010 § Leave a comment
How Childhood Trauma Can Cause Adult Obesity By Maia Szalavitz Tuesday, Jan. 05, 2010
Felitti wondered if there was something similar barring weight loss in other patients – or causing obesity itself. In the late ’80s, he began a systematic study of 286 obese people, and discovered that 50% had been sexually abused as children. That rate is more than 50% higher than the rate normally reported by women, and more than triple the average rate in men. Indeed, the average rates of sexual abuse are themselves unsettling: according to a large 2003 study conducted by John Briere and Diana Elliott of the University of Southern California, 14% of men and 32% of women said they were molested at least once as children.
In recent years, studies by both Felitti and others have largely confirmed the association between sexual abuse – as well as other types of traumatic childhood experience – and eating disorders or obesity. A 2007 study of more than 11,000 California women found that those who had been abused as children were 27% more likely to be obese as adults, compared with those who had not, after adjusting for other factors. A 2009 study of more than 15,000 adolescents found that sexual abuse in childhood raised the risk of obesity 66% in males in adulthood. That study found no such effect in women, but did find a higher risk of eating disorders in sexually abused girls.