New study shows link between child abuse and obesity in adulthood

Children who have been severely neglected or physically, emotionally or sexually abused are 36 percent more likely to be obese as adults than non-abused children, according to a new study from King’s College London.

The researchers ruled out several factors that may explain the link between childhood maltreatment and obesity in adulthood, including socio-economic status, current smoking or alcohol intake, or physical activity. Current depression, however, may account for why some abused children become obese.

In a press release from King’s College London, Dr. Andrea Danese, lead author and child and adolescent psychiatrist, said:

“We found that being maltreated as a child significantly increased the risk of obesity in adult life. Prevention of child maltreatment remains paramount and our findings highlight the serious long-term health effects of these experiences.”

The authors advocate for better prevention and treatment interventions for children who are abused. 

The report appeared this week in Molecular Psychiatry.