Researchers find resilience counteracts effects of childhood abuse and neglect on health

April 17, 2018, University of California - San Diego
Dilip V. Jeste, M.D., is senior associate dean for the Center of Healthy Aging and Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at UC San Diego School of Medicine. Credit: UC San Diego Health

Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine have determined that psychological resilience has a positive effect on health outcomes for people living with schizophrenia. This is the first study to quantitatively assess the effects of both childhood trauma and psychological resilience on health and metabolic function in people living with schizophrenia.

Globally 1 percent of people suffer from schizophrenia, a chronic and severe mental disorder that can affect all types of people and greatly impacts how a person thinks, feels and behaves. The psychiatric symptoms are typically treated with antipsychotic drugs; however, persons with schizophrenia are also more vulnerable to physical disorders, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease and premature death. Although the cause of schizophrenia is not entirely known, the disorder is linked to genetic and environmental risk factors, including childhood adversity.

The findings are published in the April 17 online issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

"In this study we found that people living with schizophrenia who had a history of severe childhood adversity and high levels of had health and biomarkers of insulin resistance similar to those in non-psychiatric comparison participants (NCs) with severe adversity and low levels of resilience," said senior author Dilip V. Jeste, MD, Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences and director of the UC San Diego Center for Healthy Aging.

"What is further striking is the observation that in both groups (those with schizophrenia and NCs), persons with high levels of resilience had overall better physical and mental health and metabolic biomarkers."

Ellen Lee, MD, first author and a research fellow at UC San Diego described resilience as "a psychological trait that helps people cope with and recover from adversities or hardships of different kinds. It is essentially a personality trait that is partially genetic, but is also determined by a variety of life and social experiences."

As such, Jeste said it should be possible to ameliorate some of the negative effects of adversities associated with schizophrenia. "There are a variety of resilience-enhancing interventions that exist in a variety of settings. The military has been using resilience training for years to enhance this trait in soldiers before they head to war. Other resilience-enhancing interventions include mindfulness, meditation and positive psychology," he said.

The research team evaluated data from 114 participants with schizophrenia and 101 non-psychiatric comparison subjects between the ages of 26 and 65 years. The participants were recruited from the larger San Diego area.

Childhood abuse was assessed with the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire, a 25-item scale that evaluates emotional, physical and sexual abuse or neglect that occurred in childhood. Jeste and colleagues used the 10-item Connor-Davidson Resilience scale to measure resilience, using factors such as hardiness ("the ability to cope with change and adversity") and persistence ("putting forth ones best effort despite adverse circumstance.")

Metabolic biomarkers of the most interest to the research team were Homeostatic Model Assessment of Insulin Resistance (HOMA-IR) and hemoglobin A1C. These were selected for their ability to indicate health problems, such as diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases that are common in persons suffering from schizophrenia.

Additionally, the measures of abuse and resilience were based on self-reporting by participants; however, these have been previously validated in other studies and are commonly used. Jeste also cautioned that the results of this cross-sectional study will need to be replicated in a longitudinal investigation.

"The finding that resilience can play a protective or coping role in persons with schizophrenia provides clinicians an opportunity to use non-drug interventions in treatment," said Jeste. "High resilience could potentially play a large role in improving health outcomes for people living with . Interventions, like training, could be combined with other therapies, allowing for more comprehensive treatment plans."

Explore further: Happiness in schizophrenia: Research suggests mental illness doesn't preclude enjoying life

More information: Ellen E. Lee et al, Childhood Adversity and Schizophrenia, The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry (2018). DOI: 10.4088/JCP.17m11776

Related Stories

Happiness in schizophrenia: Research suggests mental illness doesn't preclude enjoying life

August 18, 2014
Schizophrenia is among the most severe forms of mental illness, yet some people with the disease are as happy as those in good physical and mental health according to a study led by researchers at the University of California, ...

Childhood trauma link offers treatment hope for people with schizophrenia

March 12, 2018
People with schizophrenia may now benefit from more effective, tailored treatments and greater self-empowerment, thanks to research establishing a link between childhood trauma and some of schizophrenia's most common symptoms.

People with schizophrenia left out of longevity revolution

September 15, 2017
Since the 1970s, general mortality rates in developed countries have declined. On average, lifespans have lengthened by almost a decade. One demographic group that has not reflected this trend: persons with schizophrenia, ...

How compassion can triumph over toxic childhood trauma

April 5, 2018
In a recent piece on the television show 60 Minutes, Oprah Winfrey discussed childhood trauma —shining a public spotlight on the lasting effects of abuse and adversity in childhood. Oprah herself is a survivor of childhood ...

Siblings of children with schizophrenia show resilience to the condition as they grow up

August 6, 2015
Fundamental differences between how the brain forms during adolescence have been discovered in children with schizophrenia and their siblings, a new study shows.The study opens up new avenues for researchers to explore when ...

Are your parents to blame for your psychological problems?

August 2, 2017
Psychologist Sigmund Freud famously proposed that our personal development is pretty much determined by events in our early childhood. While many of his ideas are now outdated, some modern psychological theories also suggest ...

Recommended for you

Neuroscientists use magnetic stimulation to amplify PTSD therapy

April 19, 2018
Researchers from The University of Texas at Dallas have found that a standard therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is more effective when paired with transcranial magnetic stimulation of the brain.

Research reveals stronger people have healthier brains

April 19, 2018
A study of nearly half a million people has revealed that muscular strength, measured by handgrip, is an indication of how healthy our brains are.

Overcoming bias about music takes work

April 18, 2018
Expectations and biases play a large role in our experiences. This has been demonstrated in studies involving art, wine and even soda. In 2007, Joshua Bell, an internationally acclaimed musician, illustrated the role context ...

Study suggests we can recognize speakers only from how faces move when talking

April 18, 2018
Results of a new study by cognitive psychologist and speech scientist Alexandra Jesse and her linguistics undergraduate student Michael Bartoli at the University of Massachusetts Amherst should help to settle a long-standing ...

Scientists disconfirm belief that humans' physiological reaction to emotions are uniform

April 18, 2018
How do you feel when you're angry? Tense? Jittery? Exhausted? Is it the same every time? Is it identical to how your best friend, co-worker, or barista feel when they experience anger? In all likelihood the answer is no, ...

How mental health diagnosis should be more collaborative

April 18, 2018
Mental health diagnosis should be a collaborative and useful process, not a meaningless label - according to new research from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) and the University of East Anglia.

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.