The Connection between PTSD, Food and Women
According to researchers at the Mailman School of Public Health at the Columbia and Harvard Schools of Public Health, women with post-traumatic stress disorder are nearly twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes compared with women who do not have PTSD. The longitudinal cohort study provides the strongest evidence to date of a causal relationship between PTSD and type 2 diabetes.
A great deal has been learned in recently about trauma and PTSD in women, including their risk for exposure and PTSD prevalence, factors that increase or decrease risk for PTSD, symptom expression and comorbid conditions. Estimates from community studies suggest that women experience PTSD at two to three times the rate that men do. Furthermore, findings indicate that about half of all women in the U.S. will be exposed to at least one traumatic event in their lifetime. U.S. prevalence estimates of lifetime PTSD from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication are 9.7% for women and 3.6% for men.
Antidepressant use and elevated body mass index accounted for nearly half of the increased risk of type 2 diabetes by 34 and 14 percent, respectively. On the other hand, smoking, diet quality, alcohol intake, and physical activity did not explain the association. The study builds on past findings by the researchers, including a 2013 study that reported a link between PTSD and obesity; eight percent of the cohort met the criteria for food addiction.
Senior author Karestan C. Koenen, PhD, professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Mailman School said:
“Not only is PTSD devastating to mental health, but it affects physical health too, raising risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.”
Health professionals who care for women should be aware that these women are at greater risk for diabetes. Sadly, fewer than half of Americans with PTSD receive treatment. Psychological and behavioral interventions that address dependence on food and/or use of food to cope with distress and trauma is highly successful. The research underscores the urgency and the reasons to improve access to mental health care as a means to prevent chronic diseases and illnesses, and the importance of gender specific treatments in mental and physical health care.