STUDY There is sufficient evidence to indicate that child maltreatment increases the risk of obesity in adult life
Children who have suffered maltreatment are 36 per cent likelier to be obese in adulthood, according to a new study.
The findings come from the combined analysis of data from 190,285 individuals from 41 studies worldwide.
In addition to the long-term mental health consequences of maltreatment, there is increasing evidence that child maltreatment may affect physical health.
Dr. Andrea Danese, child and adolescent psychiatrist from King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry and lead author of the study says, “We found that being maltreated as a child significantly increased the risk of obesity in adult life. In their meta-analysis, the authors were able to rule out specific factors which might explain the link — they found that childhood maltreatment was associated with adult obesity independently of the measures or definitions used for maltreatment or obesity, childhood or adult socio-economic status, current smoking, alcohol intake, or physical activity. Additionally, childhood maltreatment was not linked to obesity in children and adolescents, making it unlikely that the link was explained by reverse causality (i.e. children are maltreated because they were obese).
However, the analysis showed that when current depression was taken into account, the link between childhood maltreatment and adult obesity was no longer significant, suggesting that depression might help explain why some maltreated individuals become obese.
The study has been published in Molecular Psychiatry .