[caption id="attachment_1688" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Image credit: David Castillo Dominici"][/caption] The true consequences of domestic violence and childhood abuse are one of the great mysteries of mental health. As painful as it is to even mention, the recent trial of Penn State’s Jerry Sandusky reaffirms that, as a population, we agree at the absolute disgrace that harming a child in any capacity represents. However, as sure as we are of the “wrongness” of these actions, their true long-term physical and mental effects are still unclear. With this idea in mind, researchers at Boston University Medical Center began an investigation into the effects of abuse in childhood on adult health. Their findings put this terrible issue smack in the middle of America’s greatest epidemic: obesity. Linking Abuse to Obesity The results of this study, called “Child and Adolescent Abuse in Relation to Obesity in Adulthood: The Black Women’s Health Study,” were published in the journal Pediatrics. Its lead author, Renee Boynton-Jarrett based these findings on the long running Black Women’s Health Study, which has tracked 33,000 participants since 1995. Using the base of either a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30 or a waist size above 35 inches, Boynton-Jarrett calculated that not only abuse, but its severity as well, contributed to the onset of obesity in adulthood. This included a control element that accounted for outside factors such as other mental health issues, general eating habits and health behaviors, as well as reproductive history. The ultimate conclusion made by the team was that “these factors did not fully account for the associations…data suggest[s] that early life adversity is related to adult body size and weight distribution.” Unlocking the Doors to an Epidemic Clearly, domestic violence and abuse is just one of a number of issues that contribute to obesity later in life and weight problems are only one of the many negative conflicts of abuse. However, their correlation is significant for educators and mental health workers alike. Any link that we can make between disordered home life and physical manifestations of a problem is helpful in allowing us to identify the children and teens who need us. This link to obesity can also help to open the doors for more comprehensive weight loss programs that consistently take into account more than poor eating and exercise habits. Often, those who are overweight are trying to “feed” something within them and no amount of magic pills or diet plans can help fill that void.
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