Sexual Abuse Is Associated with Obese Children and Adolescents Admitted for Psychiatric Hospitalization

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Abstract

Objective

To determine the relationship between a history of child abuse and obesity among children admitted for psychiatric hospitalization.

Study design

The charts of 1434 youth consecutively admitted to an inpatient psychiatric facility during a 10-month period were retrospectively analyzed. Rates of physical and sexual abuse, as well as other factors believed to increase the risk of obesity, were compared between children whose body mass index (BMI) percentiles were between 5 and 80 and whose BMI percentiles were >85.

Results

After correcting for age, race, gender, and antipsychotic usage, we found that a reported history of sexual abuse was associated with increased probability of being overweight/obese (BMI percentile 85-99) compared with being of typical BMI (aOR 1.41). Reported physical abuse neither increased the risk of obesity nor moderated the association between sexual abuse and increased weight. Antipsychotic treatment and female gender also were associated with increased BMI percentiles, with antipsychotic usage being the only variable associated with increased risk of a BMI percentile >99.

Conclusions

Among youth with significant psychiatric illness, a history of sexual abuse increases the risk of being overweight or obese, an association that warrants further study regarding the temporal relationship between sexual abuse and obesity and may inform future obesity prevention and intervention programs in children.

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