Childhood abuse leads to poor adult health

The psychological scars of childhood abuse can last well into adulthood. New research from Concordia University shows the harm can have longterm negative physical effects, as well as emotional ones.

Scientists hypothesize that stress in early childhood causes physiological changes that affect a victim's response to stress, which puts the individual at an increased risk of disease later in life. Jean-Philippe Gouin, who holds a Canada Research Chair in and Health in Concordia's Department of Psychology, tested this link and found that early-life abuse results in physiological changes that may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease later on.

Along with colleagues from Ohio State University and the University of Missouri, Gouin looked at the body's to naturally occurring stress. "We wanted to investigate whether abuse during childhood could have a lasting impact on the to stress in daily life," Gouin says. "Past research has evaluated the impact of early abuse on stress-response among young adults. We wanted to extend these findings to older adults."

The researchers spoke to 130 adults with a mean age of 65 about recent and their history. Participants completed an interview which assessed the occurrence of stressors in the preceding 24 hours. Some stressors included "having an argument with a partner" and "being stuck in traffic, resulting in being late for an important appointment." Blood samples were then taken from the participants to measure their levels of three biological markers.

The results of this study, which were recently published in the , found that there were marked differences between two groups in one of the three . In abuse victims who reported multiple stressors in the preceding 24 hours, levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), a protein that stimulates an immune response, were more than twice those of the participants who reported multiple daily stressors but no abuse history.

The findings from this study indicate that the impact of early-life abuse extend well into older age. "While the production of inflammatory markers such as IL-6 is essential to fight acute infection, its over-production has been associated with the development of age-related diseases, such as cardiovascular disease," says Gouin. "An exaggerated IL-6 response to daily stressors may create a physiological state that, over several years, increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Physical abuse may raise risk of suicidal thoughts

Apr 24, 2012

The study, published online this month in the journal Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, found that approximately one-third of adults who were physically abused in childhood had seriously considered taking their own li ...

Recommended for you

Discovery hints at why stress is more devastating for some

1 hour ago

Some people take stress in stride; others are done in by it. New research at Rockefeller University has identified the molecular mechanisms of this so-called stress gap in mice with very similar genetic backgrounds—a ...

Family dinners reduce effects of cyberbullying in adolescents

13 hours ago

Sharing regular family meals with children may help protect them from the effects of cyberbullying, according to a study by McGill professor Frank Elgar, Institute for Health and Social Policy. Because family meal times represent ...

The Edwardians were also fans of brain training

19 hours ago

Brain-training programmes are all the rage. They are part of a growing digital brain-health industry that earned more than US$1 billion in revenue in 2012 and is estimated to reach US$6 billion by 2020. The extent to which they actually improve brain function re ...

Report advocates improved police training

Aug 29, 2014

A new report released yesterday by the Mental Health Commission of Canada identifies ways to improve the mental health training and education that police personnel receive.

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

theskepticalpsychic
not rated yet Nov 13, 2012
A study group of only 130 adults is not, it seems to me, large enough or diverse enough to yield statistically meaningful data on such a complex issue. Although the anecdotal evidence of the adult health impairments from early childhood abuse is large and persuasive.