Media Releases

Childhood physical abuse linked to thyroid disorders in women

July 29, 2013

TORONTO, ON – Women who were vic­tims of child­hood phys­i­cal abuse are more like­ly to devel­op thy­roid con­di­tions than women who were not mal­treat­ed dur­ing child­hood, accord­ing to a new study from researchers at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Hawaii. The study appears online in this week’s Jour­nal of Aggres­sion, Mal­treat­ment & Trau­ma.

“We found a sig­nif­i­cant asso­ci­a­tion with thy­roid dis­or­ders for women, who were abused dur­ing child­hood,” says lead author Esme Fuller Thom­son, Pro­fes­sor and San­dra Rot­man Chair at Uni­ver­si­ty of Toronto’s Fac­tor-Inwen­tash Fac­ul­ty of Social Work. “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% 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 Far­rah Kao, a grad­u­ate of the Mas­ters of Social Work pro­gram at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to and study co-author.

Co-author Loriena Yan­cu­ra, an asso­ciate pro­fes­sor in the Depart­ment of Fam­i­ly and Con­sumer Sci­ences at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Hawaii notes that “the endur­ing effects of child­hood mal­treat­ment may be due to the way ear­ly trau­mas change the way an indi­vid­ual reacts to stress through­out life. 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.”

Researchers used data from a rep­re­sen­ta­tive com­mu­ni­ty sam­ple of 13,070 adult Cana­di­ans. More than 1000 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. Doc­tor­al stu­dent Sarah Bren­nen­stuhl was also a co-author of the study.

Online link to the study:


For more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact:

Prof. Esme Fuller-Thom­son
Pro­fes­sor & San­dra Rot­man Chair, Fac­tor-Inwen­tash Fac­ul­ty of Social Work
Depart­ment of  Fam­i­ly & Com­mu­ni­ty Med­i­cine, Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to
Tel: 011–44-7806–624499,
* NOTE: Prof. Fuller-Thom­son is cur­rent­ly in the UK.

Dr. Loriena Yan­cu­ra
Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor, Depart­ment of Fam­i­ly and Con­sumer Sci­ence
Uni­ver­si­ty of Hawaii at Manoa
Tel: 808–352-3784,