Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Early Abuse Tied to Later Physical Ailments

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Early Abuse Tied to Later Physical Ailments

Article excerpt

Abuse and neglect during childhood appear to be associated with poor physical health just as early abuse affects adult emotional health, a meta-analysis of studies involving more than 40,000 people shows.

The object of the meta-analysis was to assess the evidence on the relationship between abuse in childhood and physical health outcomes, and to examine the role of variables such as specific health outcomes, gender, and type of abuse.

"Although the consequences of childhood sexual abuse have been explored extensively in the psychiatric literature, other forms of abuse such as physical abuse, emotional abuse, or neglect have important effects on well-being in adulthood, although their unique effect is just beginning to be understood," wrote Holly L. Wegman, of Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N.C., and Cinnamon Stetler, Ph.D., of Furman University, Greenville, S.C. (Psychosomatic Med. 2009;71:805-12).

The researchers conducted a systematic review of 24 studies involving 48,801 individuals. From each study, data were coded for the following variables: health outcome, sex, average age of sample, type of abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, neglect), method used to assess abuse (self-report or objective method), and method used to assess health outcome (self-report or objective method). The meta-analysis yielded a small to medium weighted mean effect size (Cohen's d = 0.42, 95% confidence interval 0.39-0.45) for the association between childhood abuse and physical disorders in adulthood.

Neurologic and musculoskeletal disease showed the strongest association with childhood abuse, followed by respiratory, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal disorders.

Nineteen of the 24 studies used self-report methods, which the researchers said "are subject to reporting biases that could introduce unreliability and adult magnitude of the relationship between child abuse and adult health. …

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