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Child Abuse Negl. 2008 Sep;32(9):878-87. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2007.11.004. Epub 2008 Oct 22.

Associations of child sexual and physical abuse with obesity and depression in middle-aged women.

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Oregon Research Institute, 1715 Franklin Boulevard, Eugene, OR 97403-1983, USA.



Examine whether (1) childhood maltreatment is associated with subsequent obesity and depression in middle-age; (2) maltreatment explains the associations between obesity and depression; and (3) binge eating or body dissatisfaction mediate associations between childhood maltreatment and subsequent obesity.


Data were obtained through a population-based survey of 4641 women (mean age=52 years) enrolled in a large health plan in the Pacific Northwest. A telephone survey assessed child sexual and physical abuse, obesity (BMI>or=30), depressive symptoms, binge eating, and body dissatisfaction. Data were analyzed using logistic regression models incorporating sampling weights.


Both child sexual and physical abuse were associated with a doubling of the odds of both obesity and depression, although child physical abuse was not associated with depression for the African American/Hispanic/American Indian subgroup. The association between obesity and depression (unadjusted OR=2.82; 95% CI=2.20-3.62) was reduced somewhat after controlling for sexual abuse (adjusted OR=2.54; 1.96-3.29) and for physical abuse (adjusted OR=2.63; 2.03-3.42). Controlling for potential mediators failed to substantially attenuate associations between childhood maltreatment and obesity.


This study is the first to our knowledge that compares associations of child abuse with both depression and obesity in adults. Although the study is limited by its cross-sectional design and brief assessments, the fact that child abuse predicted two debilitating conditions in middle-aged women indicates the potential long-term consequences of these experiences.

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