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Study shows link between obesity and fear of violence

May 16, 2016

A nearly 20-year study of African-American teenage girls in Flint has drawn a connection between the fear of violence and obesity.

Dr. Shervin Assari is a research investigator with the Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture and Health in the U-M School of Public Health.

He says a study involving hundreds of Flint teen girls shows a correlation between fear of violence in the teen years and obesity in their 20’s and 30’s.

"Chronic anxiety due to fear from living in a high crime neighborhood is taking its toll on Flint residents,” says Dr. Assari.

The students were asked about their fear of violence in the neighborhood and whether they had concerns about being hurt. They also were asked if they had witnessed a crime against another person in the 12 months before the survey, or if they had been threatened or physically hurt by someone else in the same time period.

Assari says, in some cases, gaining weight may be a unconscious defense mechanism.

Assari says the study suggests reducing obesity rates goes beyond individual responsibility and should include “a change to public policy…increasing safety…reducing crime.”

The study appears in the Archives of Trauma Research.