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Research Publications

Association between Obesity and History of Abuse among American Indians in Rural California

Hodge F, Stemmler MS, Nandy K.


Objectives: To explore factors associated with obesity among American Indians. Methods: A cross-sectional survey of American Indian adults (N=459) was conducted at 13 rural reservation sites in California. Participants responded to a survey about their health and wellness perceptions. The Body Mass Index (BMI) was used to assess obesity. A predictive model for BMI was built using a generalized regression model. Results: Having high blood pressure and having a history of verbal abuse in childhoodwere significant predictors of higher BMI. Participants with high blood pressure were likely to have 3.2 units of BMI higher on average than those who do not have highblood pressure (p-value <0.0001). Similarly, those with a history of childhood verbal abuse were likely to have 1.9 units higher BMI on average compared to those with no such history. Having a history of diabetes or sexual abuse in childhood trend towards increased BMI, although not statistically significant. Conclusion: Identifying childhood trauma and its impact on adult obesity rates among American Indians provides new avenues for intervention. Efforts to reduce overweight and obesity should include culturally sensitive interventions to ameliorate and repair what is lost through personal violations of stigma, abuse or neglect.

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