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Child abuse and thyroid disease

U. TORONTO (CAN) — Being physically abused as a child raises a woman’s odds of developing a thyroid disorder by as much as 40 percent.

“We found a significant association with thyroid disorders for women, who were abused during childhood,” says Esme Fuller Thomson, professor of social work at the University of Toronto and lead author of the study that details the findings.

“We originally thought the link would be explained by factors such as daily stress, smoking, or alcohol abuse—characteristics associated with both childhood physical abuse and thyroid disorders.

“But even after adjusting for 14 potential explanatory factors, women who had been physically abused in childhood had 40 percent higher odds of thyroid disorders than their non-abused peers.”

“Earlier research had established that childhood sexual abuse is associated with thyroid disorders, our work suggests that another early life stressor, childhood physical abuse, is also related to thyroid dysfunction,” says co-author Farrah Kao, a graduate of the masters of social work program.

For the study, published in the Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment, & Trauma, researchers used data from a representative community sample of 13,070 adult Canadians.

More than 1,000 reported being physically abused by someone close to them before they turned 18 and 906 said they had been diagnosed with a thyroid disorder by a health professional.

“The enduring effects of childhood maltreatment may be due to the way early traumas change the way an individual reacts to stress throughout life,” says co-author Loriena Yancura, associate professor of family and consumer sciences at the University of Hawaii.

“One important avenue for future research is to investigate potential dysfunctions in the production of the ‘fight or flight’ hormone, cortisol, among survivors of abuse.”

**Article originally featured at University of Toronto**

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