Abuse in childhood can lead to long-term health costs, according to new study

Researchers at Concordia University have found that the impact of child abuse can extend well into adulthood, significantly increasing their risk of poor mental and physical health, and may lead to cardiovascular disease. The study focused on the physiological response to stress, and the influence child abuse could have on that response in older adults. The research builds on earlier findings that showed how early-in-life abuse can affect young adults, reports PsychCentral.com.  

The study, published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, interviewed 130 adults, with an average age of 65, on the types of stressful events they had experienced recently and whether they had been abused as children. Recent stressors included arguing with a partner or being stuck in traffic. After the interview, blood samples were taken from the participants to examine the effect of stress on three biological markers. The researchers found a significant difference for one of these markers–a protein that stimulates an immune response. Those participants who had experienced a stressor within the last 24 hours, and had been victims of child abuse had levels that were twice as high as those who also reported several daily stressful events, but had no history of abuse.

According to the lead author, Jean-Philippe Gouin: “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 … An exaggerated IL-6 response to daily stressors may create a physiological state that, over several years, increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.” 

These findings reinforce the importance of early identification of abuse, followed by the assessment and monitoring of its mental health impact. Find out how Polaris-CW is helping child welfare agencies better achieve their goals of permanency, safety and well-being for the children they serve: /polaris-child-welfare/.