Bullies, Abusers, and Obesity

One more clue to the complexity of obesity comes in the accumulating evidence about the link between obesity and adverse childhood experiences. Bullies, abusers, and obesity increasingly appear to be linked tightly in a substantial portion of people with obesity.

In Psychological Medicine, Ryu Takizawa and colleagues have documented that children who are bullied have an increased risk of inflammation and obesity that persists over five decades of life. Senior author Louise Arseneault commented on the importance of addressing this risk factor early in life:

Bullying is a part of growing up for many children from all social groups. While many important school programs focus on preventing bullying behaviors, we tend to neglect the victims and their suffering. Our study implies that early interventions in support of the bullied children could not only limit psychological distress but also reduce physical health problems in adulthood.

Certainly, a history of maltreatment or abuse is not part of the history for every person with obesity, but is is an important factor for a significant segment of people with the disease. So well-intended, but glib programs to promote nutrition and physical activity as a complete solution for obesity are woefully inadequate.

And in this context, people who feel justified in dispensing shame and blame to people with obesity are an embarrassment to humanity.

Click here to read the study in Psychological Medicine, click here to read more about adolescents with severe obesity and a history of abuse, and click here to read a systematic review of the health consequences of adverse childhood experiences.

Bully, photograph © Snap Snare / flickr

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2 Responses to “Bullies, Abusers, and Obesity”

  1. May 27, 2015 at 8:24 am, Joe Gitchell said:

    Wow – this is pretty amazing–tough, stuff. Thanks, Ted, for sharing.


    • May 27, 2015 at 9:46 am, Ted said:

      Thanks, Joe. Watch this space. Obesity linked to adverse childhood experiences and traumatic stress is an important space for research.