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Childhood stress determines adulthood weight gain in women

Posted:  Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Childhood stress comes back with a vengeance during adulthood in women! The first of its kind, an American study assessed the lifelong consequences of stress on weight change. Researchers concluded that childhood stress is a bigger contributor to weight gain than adulthood stress. Also, higher the levels of childhood stress in women, more the gain in weight during adulthood.

The study, published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, analysed data from a national survey. Of the 3,617 participants included in the study, 2,259 were women and 1,358 men. The survey participants were interviewed four times over a 15 year period.

Economic hardship, divorce, at least one parent with mental health problem or not knowing one's father were considered as childhood stressors (up to the age of 16 years). Adult stress related to job loss, death of an important person and stress of providing care/parenting were assessed.

Surprisingly, the findings indicated that in the case of women, higher levels of stress during childhood lead to higher weight gain during adulthood. However, this was not the case with men. This may be true as women are more likely to be depressed after adolescence and indulge in binging to deal with stress.

Hui Liu, Michigan State University associate professor of sociology and an expert in statistics, population-based health and family science suggests that, "It's important that we consider the sex-specific social contexts of early childhood in order to design effective clinical programs that prevent or treat obesity later in life."

Knowing the role of body mass on one’s health, evidence from this research points to the need for amendments in treatment and polices to lower childhood stress.

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