Childhood adversity linked to higher risk of early death

September 4, 2013, University College London

Traumatic childhood experiences are linked to an increased risk of early death, according to new research using data from the 1958 National Child Development Study.

The research, led by the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM), in collaboration with the ESRC International Centre for Lifecourse Studies in Society and Health at UCL, found that men and women who had suffered adversity in childhood were more likely to die before age of 50 than those who had not.

The researchers compared premature death rates among more than 15,000 people to their experiences of adversity at ages 7, 11 and 16. This included spending time in care, suffering from neglect, parental separation or having a family member in prison.

For women, the likelihood of dying before age 50 increased with the amount of adversity they had suffered in childhood. Women who had suffered one by age 16 were 66 per cent more likely to die before the age of 50 than those who had not faced any adversity. Women who had two or more adverse experiences in childhood had an 80 per cent increased risk of premature death.

Men who had suffered two or more traumatic events in childhood were 57 per cent more likely to die by the time they were 50 than those who had not experienced any adversity growing up.

The association between childhood adversity and premature death remained even after taking into account factors such as and social class, alcohol and , and psychological problems in .

The researchers note that some causes of death in early are related to , such as suicide or addiction to alcohol or drugs. However, they also suggest that children who suffer severe stress may experience imbalances in their hormone and immune systems that impact on their physical development and later health.

For the first time in any study, the longitudinal nature of the data made it possible to link the risk of early death to experiences of adversity that have been recorded during childhood, rather than relying on adult recollections of early life experiences.

Professor Mel Bartley, one of the UCL authors of the study, says: "Our Centre has been collaborating with public health researchers at INSERM to enable them to use unique British birth cohort data to test their ideas.

"This work on early psychological trauma and adds a whole new dimension to public health. It shows that if we are going to ensure better health in the population the work needs to begin early in life to support children experiencing severe adversities. Many people have suspected this but until now we have not had such high quality evidence from such a large cohort of people."

Explore further: Migraines, strokes may be linked to childhood adversity

Related Stories

Migraines, strokes may be linked to childhood adversity

May 10, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Migraines, strokes and other inflammatory diseases suffered by some adult women may be linked to adverse experiences that occurred during childhood, says a new study co-authored by a Ball State University ...

Childhood adversity increases risk for depression and chronic inflammation

July 3, 2012
When a person injures their knee, it becomes inflamed. When a person has a cold, their throat becomes inflamed. This type of inflammation is the body's natural and protective response to injury.

Childhood abuse linked with food addiction in adult women

May 29, 2013
Women who experienced severe physical or sexual abuse during childhood are much more likely to have a food addiction as adults than women who did not experience such abuse, according to a new study published in the journal ...

Stress early in life leads to adulthood anxiety and preference for 'comfort foods'

July 30, 2013
Research to be presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB), the foremost society for research into all aspects of eating and drinking behavior, suggests that exposure to stress ...

Evidence of biological process that embeds social experience in DNA that affects entire networks of genes

October 11, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Early life experience results in a broad change in the way our DNA is "epigenetically" chemically marked in the brain by a coat of small chemicals called methyl groups, according to researchers at McGill ...

Recommended for you

New research suggests possible link between sudden infant death syndrome and air pollution

April 20, 2018
A study led by the University of Birmingham suggests a possible association between exposure to certain pollutants and an increased risk of so-called 'cot death'.

For heavy lifting, use exoskeletons with caution

April 20, 2018
You can wear an exoskeleton, but it won't turn you into a superhero.

Low total testosterone in men widespread, linked to chronic disease

April 19, 2018
A male's total testosterone level may be linked to more than just sexual health and muscle mass preservation, a new study finds. Low amounts of the hormone could also be associated with chronic disease, even among men 40 ...

New device to help patients with rare disease access life-saving treatment

April 19, 2018
Patients with a rare medical condition can receive life-saving treatment at the touch of a button thanks to a new device developed by scientists.

Low-cost anti-hookworm drug boosts female farmers' physical fitness

April 19, 2018
Impoverished female farm workers infected with intestinal parasites known as hookworms saw significant improvements in physical fitness when they were treated with a low-cost deworming drug. The benefits were seen even in ...

Age affects how we predict and respond to stress at home

April 19, 2018
A recent study finds that older adults are better than younger adults at anticipating stressful events at home - but older adults are not as good at using those predictions to reduce the adverse impacts of the stress.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.