Background: There is evidence from cross-sectional studies that posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may be associated with obesity. The aim of this study was to examine prospective longitudinal associations between PTSD and obesity in a community sample. Methods: A prospective, longitudinal, epidemiologic study with a representative community sample of adolescents and young adults (N=3021, aged 14-24 years at baseline) was conducted in Munich, Germany. Participants were assessed four times between 1995 and 2005 with the Munich-Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Associations between obesity (BMI ≥30) and DSM-IV PTSD were evaluated in 2007, using cross-sectional and prospective data during young adulthood. Results: The cumulative lifetime incidence of obesity in the sample at 10-year follow-up during young adulthood was 4.3% (women, 4.6%; men, 4.0%). Among women but not among men, obesity was associated with a lifetime history of PTSD (OR=3.8; 95% CI=1.4, 10.7) in the cross-sectional analyses. Prospective longitudinal analyses from 4-year follow-up to 10-year follow-up confirmed that obesity was predicted by antecedent subthreshold and full PTSD (OR=3.0; 95% CI=1.3, 7.0) among women but not among men. There were no associations between other mental disorders and obesity in the prospective analyses. Conclusions: The findings indicate a possible causal pathway for the onset of obesity in females with PTSD symptoms. These findings need replication with regard to the pathophysiologic and behavioral mechanisms underlying this relationship. © 2009 American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
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