Women who experience more stress from major life events are at a higher risk of developing obesity than those who do not face any stressful events, a study has found.
Women tend to live longer than men, putting especially ageing women at greater risk for obesity, said Eva M Durazo, a post-doctoral scholar at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) in the US.
The researchers studied the relationship between major life events and obesity in a group of 21,904 middle-aged and older women, focusing on women with the highest obesity prevalence.
They defined obesity as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 kilogrammes per square metre or higher.
They also measured the impacts of two types of stress: traumatic events, which could occur anytime in a woman's life and includes such things as death of a child or being a victim of a serious physical attack, as well as negative life events that had occurred in the previous five years of a woman's life.
Negative events included wanting employment but being unemployed for longer than three months or being burglarised.
Women who reported greater than one traumatic life event versus no traumatic life events had 11 per cent increased odds of obesity.
The higher the number of negative life events reported by women in the last five years, the higher the tendency for increased risk of obesity.
Specifically, women who reported four or more negative life events had a 36 per cent higher risk of obesity, compared to those who reported no such events.
Among women who had higher levels of physical activity, there was a stronger association between increasing cumulative/chronic stress and obesity, though the reason for this finding remains uncertain, researchers said.
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