Childhood stress may explain your adult weight gain

July 16, 2015

Pretty girl looking in a mirror

Could your childhood play a role in how quickly you gain weight? The answer is yes, according to a new study conducted by Michigan State University (MSU) and published in the journal Social Science and Medicine.
Researchers at MSU analyzed data from nearly 4,000 people who participated in the Americans’ Changing Survey. The individuals were asked a series of questions over a period of 15 years. What they found was that women who experienced high levels of stress, such as financial hardship and the divorce of their parents before the age of 16 gained weight faster as adults compared to women who didn’t. Interesting enough, this was only the case for women. Go figure, right?
Hui Liu, associate sociology professor at MSU and leader of the study, said the following about the findings:
“These findings add to our understanding of how childhood stress is a more important driver of long-term weight gain than adult stress, and how such processes differ for men and women.”
“Given the importance of body mass on health and disability,” Liu adds. “It’s important that we consider the sex-specific social contexts of early childhood in order to design effective clinical programs that prevent or treat obesity later in life.”
Although the exact reason why differences between men and women exist when it comes to childhood stress and weight gain are still unknown, it’s believed that women overeat as a way to cope with their stress while men rely on alcohol instead. In addition, people who are depressed are more likely to binge eat and women are more likely to suffer from depression than men following adolescence.