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Bad childhood experiences linked to cardiovascular risk later in life

15 May 2019
Children subjected to corporal punishment are at higher risk of depression, alcohol and drug abuse and psychological maladjustment.

Adverse childhood experiences, such as neglect, violence and sexual abuse, are strongly linked with the development of cardiovascular risk factors, a recent study reports.

Extracting 2009–2011 data from the Behavioural Risk Factor Surveillance System, researchers identified adverse childhood experiences in 45,482 participants (mean age, 57.9±15.2 years; 59.7 percent female) and evaluated the pertinent associations with health behaviours and cardiovascular risk factors. Three categories of adverse childhood experiences were included: neglect, violence or emotional abuse, and sexual abuse.

More than half (52 percent; n=23,694) of the participants reported at least one adverse childhood experience, while a quarter (25 percent) had experiences in at least two distinct categories. Violence or verbal abuse was the most common adverse experience and was reported by 37 percent (n=16,841) of the total sample. This was followed by neglect (33.6 percent; n=15,226) and sexual abuse (11.8 percent; 5,373).

There were direct and significant correlations between the risks of hypertension, diabetes and dyslipidaemia and the number of adverse childhood experiences (p<0.001 for all). This effect was particularly strong among participants <40 years of age.

For instance, having experiences in two distinct categories resulted in a larger increase in diabetes risk in participants <40 years of age (odds ratio [OR], 1.72; 95 percent CI, 1.19–2.48) compared with the total sample (OR, 1.21; 1.12–1.32). The same was true for exposure to experiences in three categories (<40 years: OR, 2.0; 1.22–2.36; total sample: OR, 1.38; 1.22–1.57).

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