Abuse in Childhood and Teens May Set Many Women on the Path to Type 2

| Dec 16, 2010

Women who experienced sexual or physical abuse in childhood and adolescence-whether moderate or severe-run a higher risk of type 2 diabetes than women who were not abused, according to results from a study recently reported online in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Physical abuse that did not involve sexual molestation increased women's chances of developing type 2 diabetes in adulthood by 26 to 54 percent, depending on the frequency and severity of the abuse. In the case of sexual abuse, even one incident increased the likelihood of acquiring type 2 by 34 percent, while multiple incidences increased the likelihood by 69 percent.

Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital/Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health in Boston analyzed data from 68,376 women who are part of an ongoing nationwide study, "Nurses Health Study II." The study, which began in 1989, initially enrolled 116,430 nurses 25 to 42 years of age. Since that time, the study cohort has been tracked by questionnaires mailed out every two years that ask about risk factors and disease.

One theory about why women who were abused in their youth run a higher risk of type 2 diabetes centers on overeating as a form of consolation and self-medication for traumas brought on by mistreatment. As the women gain weight or eat unhealthy foods, they run an increased risk of obesity and other factors, such as high blood sugar, that can eventually morph into diabetes.

The study found that even when abused women did not have a high body mass index, there remained a 10 to 30 percent increased risk of type 2.

Questionnaire Unveils Pattern

Statistics about the relationship between abuse and the development of type 2 began emerging in 2001, after a questionnaire on violence was added to NHS II's regular follow-ups. Study managers received 68,376 responses, which became the basis for the percentages reported here.

The questionnaire covered three age periods and categorized physical abuse in four ways:


●      Childhood-up to age 11

●      Adolescence-11 to 17 years

●      Adulthood-18 and over

Physical Abuse Levels:

●      None

●      Mild-being pushed, grabbed or shoved at any frequency; being kicked, bitten, punched or hit with something once

●      Moderate-being hit with something or physically attacked more than once

●      Severe-being kicked, bitten, punched or physically attacked more than once, or ever choked or burned, even if only once

Spanking was not included in the definition.

Sexual Abuse Levels:

●      None

●      Unwanted sexual touching only

●      Forced sexual activity once

●      Forced sexual activity more than once

In all, 65 percent of respondents reported some degree of physical or sexual abuse before adulthood. Even after adjusting for such factors as age, ethnicity, body type at age five,* family history of diabetes, and parents' educational levels, those respondents' still ran a 24 percent greater risk of acquiring type 2 than respondents who reported no abuse.

*There was little difference in body type at age five between the women who reported childhood abuse and those who did not. By age 18, however, their body mass indexes began to diverge, with abused respondents reporting higher body weight.

Lead researcher, Dr. Janet W. Rich-Edwards, director of developmental epidemiology at the Connors Center for Women's Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women's Hospital, says the that while an association between childhood abuse and adult obesity has long been noted, the study by her and her colleagues is the first large-scale examination of a link between abuse and diabetes.



Internal Medicine News


Click Here To View Or Post Comments

Categories: Adolescent Girls, Blood Sugar, Diabetes, Diabetes, Food, Research, Type 2 Issues, Women's Issues

Take the Diabetes Health Pump Survey
See What's Inside
Read this FREE issue now
For healthcare professionals only
  • 12th Annual Product Reference Guide
  • Insulin Syringe Chart
  • Insulin Pen Needles Chart
  • Fast-Acting Glucose
  • Sharps Disposal
  • Blood Glucose Meters Chart
  • Insulin Pumps Chart
See the entire table of contents here!

You can view the current or previous issues of Diabetes Health online, in their entirety, anytime you want.
Click Here To View

See if you qualify for our free healthcare professional magazines. Click here to start your application for Pre-Diabetes Health, Diabetes Health Pharmacist and Diabetes Health Professional.

Learn More About the Professional Subscription

Free Diabetes Health e-Newsletter

Top Rated
Print | Email | Share | Comments (1)

You May Also Be Interested In...


Posted by Anonymous on 6 April 2011

I am a 60yr old married woman with 3 grown children and two granddaughters.I have been sexually abused by various male family members since I was 3 until age 35 when I started therapy. I weighed 95lbs when I married at 15 and now weigh between 195 and 215 at 5ft 1.Have type 2 diabetes.I consider myself a food addict who also takes alot of pain pills for my lupus/fibromyalgia/and osteroarthritis.Still after all this time it is still nice to get validation for my life.Maybe if we can reach more young victims earlier their medical life may turn out more positively.Keep up the good work!Kathe S

Add your comments about this article below. You can add comments as a registered user or anonymously. If you choose to post anonymously your comments will be sent to our moderator for approval before they appear on this page. If you choose to post as a registered user your comments will appear instantly.

When voicing your views via the comment feature, please respect the Diabetes Health community by refraining from comments that could be considered offensive to other people. Diabetes Health reserves the right to remove comments when necessary to maintain the cordial voice of the diabetes community.

For your privacy and protection, we ask that you do not include personal details such as address or telephone number in any comments posted.

Don't have your Diabetes Health Username? Register now and add your comments to all our content.

Have Your Say...

Username: Password:
©1991-2015 Diabetes Health | Home | Privacy | Press | Advertising | Help | Contact Us | Donate | Sitemap

Diabetes Health Medical Disclaimer

The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. Opinions expressed here are the opinions of writers, contributors, and commentators, and are not necessarily those of Diabetes Health. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website.