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,