Medacs Healthcare

MAY 21/2013

Child abuse linked to obesity, study finds

Social carers play a crucial role in protecting children from the dangers of abuse, and it seems maltreatment from a young age is linked to obesity in adulthood. While it is sometimes argued that allowing children to eat enough to become obese is a form of abuse, this latest research sheds light on how maltreatment affects children when they grow up. 

For people in social care, the objective of the role is to prevent children from being exposed to certain actions and abuses that can have a devastating impact on their mental health. Indeed, childhood trauma can hinder the individual from becoming a fully functioning adult. But, it seems, the implications of abuse can be physical too, causing sufferers to be 36 per cent more likely to be obese in adulthood.  

The research, published in Molecular Psychiatry, combined analysis of data from 190,285 people from 41 studies worldwide. With about one in five UK children exposed to maltreatment of some sort - including physical, sexual or emotional abuse - the findings have far-reaching consequences. Indeed, the study showed abused participants were not obese as children or adolescents, ruling out the possibility their maltreatment was caused by their obesity. 

Child and adolescent psychiatrist from King's College London's Institute of Psychiatry, Dr Andrea Danese said: "If the association is causal as suggested by animal studies, childhood maltreatment could be seen as a potentially modifiable risk factor for obesity - a health concern affecting one third of the population and often resistant to interventions." 

For British social carers, however, the results offer further insight into the consequences of child abuse. While many are well-informed of the psychological consequences of maltreatment, this latest research explains how protecting children as vigilantly as possible has wider health benefits too. Dr Donese concluded by suggesting further research was warranted to explore interventions to prevent obesity in child abuse victims. 

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