Adverse childhood experiences are associated with an  increased risk of obesity in early adolescence: a population-based prospective cohort study

Type Article

Journal Article


R. Gardner; A. Feely; R. Layte; J. Williams; J. McGavock

Year of publication



Pediatr Res








OBJECTIVE: To determine whether adverse childhood experiences were associated with weight gain and obesity risk in adolescence. METHODS: We analyzed data from 6942 adolescents followed between 9 and 13 years of age in the Growing Up in Ireland cohort study. The main exposures were 14 adverse childhood experiences, 4 of which were included in the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) study. The primary outcome was incident overweight and obesity at 13 years. Secondary outcomes included prevalent overweight/obesity and weight gain. RESULTS: More than 75% of the youth experienced an adverse experience and 17% experienced an ACE-specific experience before 9 years. At 13 years, 48% were female and 31.4% were overweight or obese. After adjusting for confounding, exposure to any adverse experience was associated with prevalent overweight/obesity (aOR: 1.56; 1.19-2.05) and incident overweight/obesity (adjusted IRR: 2.15; 95% CI: 1.37-3.39), while exposure to an ACE-specific exposure was associated weight gain (BMI Z score change = 0.202; 95% CI: 0.100-0.303). A significant interaction between income and adverse childhood experiences was observed for both incident overweight/obesity and weight gain (BMI Z change: -0.046; 95% CI: -0.092 to 0.000). CONCLUSIONS: Adverse childhood experiences and low income interact and independently predict obesity risk in early adolescence.