Child abuse affected their psyche and health decades later

(ORDO NEWS) — According to a study by Canadian scientists, people who experienced physical abuse in childhood are significantly more likely to develop a number of chronic diseases (including cancer, arthritis and migraines) later in life.

In addition, they are twice as likely to develop depression and anxiety disorders compared to peers who did not have similar traumatic childhood experiences.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ABCs) have been considered since the 1990s as a predictor of various health problems (ranging from cancer to chronic depression) throughout a person’s life. NDO may take the form of emotional, physical or sexual abuse.

Children may also experience NDO indirectly through the environment, including due to conflicts between parents, their unemployment, alcohol or substance abuse, and mental illness of family members.

Early work confirmed the association of NDO with an increased risk of developing certain diseases in adulthood.

The authors of a new study from the University of Toronto (Canada) focused on studying the impact of only physical abuse of a child (as one of the most common) on the likelihood of psychological and physical health problems in people over 60 years old.

In a study of a representative sample of 409 older adults who reported being physically abused as children and 4,659 peers without similar traumatic experiences, researchers found that people with NDO were twice as likely to suffer from depression and anxiety disorders as adults.

In addition, they are twice as likely to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (bronchitis), a common, progressive inflammation of the airways. This disease is difficult to diagnose, but it is treatable, which is why it is important to be aware of the presence of increased risks of its development.

Also, older people with NDO are more than 50% more likely to be diagnosed with chronic pain, cancer, and chronic migraine, and 33% more likely to be diagnosed with arthritis. However, physical abuse had no effect on the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Moreover, the detected (and not detected) relationships persisted even after taking into account the level of income, education, bad habits, marital status, and other factors that could theoretically affect the result.

“Health care providers serving the elderly need to know that it is never too late to refer people for counselling.

The promising practice of cognitive-behavioral therapy has been repeatedly tested and found effective in reducing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety in people who have experienced childhood abuse,” explained study co-author Professor Esme Fuller-Thomson, Director of the Institute Life Cycle and Aging Faculty of Social Work Factor-Inwentash University of Toronto.

This cross-sectional study did not identify specific ways in which childhood physical abuse affects health later in life. However, similar work shows that NDO can cause a number of physiological changes, including disruption of the systems responsible for the body’s response to stress.

Future research examining disturbances in these systems (eg, abnormal levels of the hormone cortisol found in people with NDO) will improve the diagnosis and treatment of health problems in victims of childhood abuse.

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