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Adverse life events and overweight in childhood, adolescence and young adulthood

PhD ceremony:Ms L.K. (Leonie) Elsenburg
When:April 16, 2018
Start:14:30
Supervisor:A.C. Liefbroer
Co-supervisor:dr. N. (Nynke) Smidt
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Medical Sciences / UMCG

Adverse life events and overweight in childhood, adolescence and young adulthood

Overweight and obesity are a major public health problem. Better insight into the causes of overweight and obesity is crucial to prevent and reduce the burden of these conditions. We investigated the relationship between adverse life events and overweight and obesity in childhood, adolescence and young adulthood. Adverse life events are events such as parental divorce, illness or death of a family member or friend, out-of-home placement and childhood abuse.

The findings of this dissertation provided little evidence for a relationship between adverse life events in childhood and overweight and obesity in childhood and adolescence. However, we did find evidence for a relationship between adverse life events in childhood and overweight and obesity in young adulthood. Associations were more readily detected in females than in males. In addition, we found that psychological factors, like mental health problems and personality, influence the relationship between adverse life events and overweight and obesity in young adulthood. Findings also show that event characteristics and the timing of events may influence the relationship between both factors.

The relationship between adverse life events in childhood and overweight and obesity seems to come to expression with a delay. Moreover, individual characteristics influence an individual’s susceptibility to overweight and obesity development after the experience of adverse life events. As these factors influence an individual’s susceptibility already in childhood and adolescence, possible strategies to prevent overweight and obesity development after the experience of adverse life events should not be delayed until young adulthood.