Friday, November 8, 2019

Adverse Events in Childhood May Raise Health, Socioeconomic Risks in Adulthood

A study published this week in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report adds to the growing body of evidence indicating that experiencing adverse events in childhood such as abuse or witnessing intimate partner violence increases the risk of numerous negative health and socioeconomic outcomes in adulthood.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention used data from more than 144,000 respondents who participated in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) from 2015 to 2017. The BRFSS is an annual state-based telephone survey of adults in which participants report on their health behaviors and whether health care professionals had ever diagnosed them with a health condition. The researchers drew the data from 25 states that had added questions to the BRFSS to assess participants’ exposure to eight types of adverse childhood experiences, including physical, emotional, or sexual abuse; household member substance misuse, incarceration, or mental illness; parental divorce; or witnessing intimate partner violence.

Overall, 60.9% of participants had been exposed to at least one type of adverse childhood experience, and 15.6% had been exposed to four or more. The more types of adverse childhood experiences participants were exposed to, the more likely they were to engage in risky health behaviors or have chronic health conditions or socioeconomic challenges as adults. For example, participants who were exposed to four or more types of adverse childhood events were five times more likely to have depression, roughly three times more likely to have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or smoke, and nearly twice as likely to have coronary heart disease, drink heavily, or be unemployed compared with participants who reported no exposure to adverse childhood experiences.

The researchers noted that the prevalence of adverse childhood experiences was higher among people aged 34 years and younger, possibly because of differences in risk among people in that age group, their willingness to disclose their history, or their ability to recall adverse childhood experiences.

“Strategies to prevent adverse childhood experiences in the first place and to intervene with those who have been exposed to adverse childhood experiences might help to reduce prevalence of engaging in health risk behaviors [such as smoking or drinking] in young adulthood and subsequent negative health outcomes,” the researchers wrote. “These strategies might also help to break the multigenerational cycle of adverse childhood experiences as these age groups are most likely to start families or raise children.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Positive Childhood Experiences May Counteract Adverse Experiences” and the Psychiatric Services article “State Legislators’ Opinions About Adverse Childhood Experiences as Risk Factors for Adult Behavioral Health Conditions.”

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