Abuse victimization in childhood or adolescence and risk of food addiction in adult women

Susan M. Mason, Alan J. Flint, Alison E. Field, S. Bryn Austin, Janet W. Rich-Edwards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Objective Child abuse appears to increase obesity risk in adulthood, but the mechanisms are unclear. This study examined the association between child abuse victimization and food addiction, a measure of stress-related overeating, in 57,321 adult participants in the Nurses' Health Study II (NHSII). Design and Methods The NHSII ascertained physical and sexual child abuse histories in 2001 and current food addiction in 2009. Food addiction was defined as ≥3 clinically significant symptoms on a modified version of the Yale Food Addiction Scale. Confounder-adjusted risk ratios (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated using modified Poisson regression. Results Over 8% of the sample reported severe physical abuse in childhood, while 5.3% reported severe sexual abuse. Eight percent met the criteria for food addiction. Women with food addiction were 6 U of BMI heavier than women without food addiction. Severe physical and severe sexual abuse were associated with roughly 90% increases in food addiction risk (physical abuse RR = 1.92; 95% CI: 1.76, 2.09; sexual abuse RR = 1.87; 95% CI: 1.69, 2.05). The RR for combined severe physical abuse and sexual abuse was 2.40 (95% CI: 2.16, 2.67). Conclusions A history of child abuse is strongly associated with food addiction in this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E775-E781
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2013


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