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

Paul Rohde, Laura Ichikawa, Gregory E. Simon, Evette J. Ludman, Jennifer A. Linde, Robert W. Jeffery, Belinda H. Operskalski

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125 Scopus citations


Objective: 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. Methods: 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 ≥ 30), depressive symptoms, binge eating, and body dissatisfaction. Data were analyzed using logistic regression models incorporating sampling weights. Results: 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. Conclusions: 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)878-887
Number of pages10
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2008


  • Binge eating
  • Body dissatisfaction
  • Child abuse
  • Depression
  • Obesity


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