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Study in Japan finds women abused as kids at higher risk of obesity than non-abused women

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KOBE -- Women who were physically or verbally abused by their parents are about 1.6 times more likely to become obese than women who were not abused, a research group at Kobe University announced Nov. 26.

    This is the first time that a link between not just income and obesity, but between a history of being abused and obesity has been confirmed in Japan. The group's findings were published in the American online science journal PLOS One.

    The research team analyzed the results of a survey that the Kobe Municipal Government mailed to 200,000 city residents between the ages of 20 and 64 in August 2018, which had a response rate of 33.3%. A total of 11% of women of normal weight, during their childhood, had either been beaten to the point where they were injured, not received proper meals or other necessary care, or been told hurtful things by their parents. However, the corresponding figure rose to 17.1% among obese women. If the risk of becoming obese among people who have not been abused is 1, then the risk for those who have been abused was 1.59 times that figure.

    Other contributing factors to obesity among women included being on welfare (4.62 times), feeling financially hard-pressed (1.67 times), not having college education (1.69 times), and being unmarried (1.65 times). For men, none of these factors, including childhood abuse, had any links to obesity.

    "It's not certain why, but there is a possibility that women are more influenced by their environment than men are," said Yoshikazu Tamori, a specially appointed professor at Kobe University's Graduate School of Medicine who represents the research team. He continued, "Obesity is commonly seen as the result of a lack of individual effort, but the environment in which one grows up can trigger changes in the body such as hormone secretions, which could make it easier to become obese. Measures to prevent child abuse can become a broader health protection measure."

    (Japanese original by Kimi Sorihashi, Kobe Bureau)

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