Childhood Trauma May Impact One’s Health In Older Age, Study Shows

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New research suggests that a distressing childhood could lead to enduring effects on physical and cognitive capabilities in adulthood, raising the question of whether childhood trauma can have a lasting impact.

Childhood trauma linked to health issues later in life

A UC San Francisco study explored the connection between childhood trauma and health issues in older adulthood. Various forms of childhood trauma, such as severe illness, physical abuse, financial stress within the family, and parental separation, have been associated with negative health outcomes in young to middle-aged adults. This study extends this research by emphasizing the impact of childhood trauma on health in older adults.

Senior author and General Internal Medicine research director at CSF Health Alison Huang said they considered self-reported disability and objectively measured cognitive and physical impairment from which they learnt that childhood traumas can have lasting effects in older age. Therefore, it means there are high chances that individuals may experience problems with carrying out daily living activities or memory when they are above 60.

Approximately 60% of American adults have encountered adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), as per CDC. These experiences can impact a child’s sense of security and have long-lasting effects on physical and mental health, including unexpected conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Despite the heightened risk of health problems in older adults, limited research exists on the lifelong health consequences of ACEs.

Individuals who experience ACEs at risk of mobility issues

The study analyzed data from the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project, a cohort of older adults in the U.S. About 3,400 participants aged 50 to 97 in community settings were included. They were interviewed about ACEs, underwent tests for balance, walking, cognition, memory, and daily activities.

Roughly 44% reported ACEs between ages 6 and 16, including violence, financial stress, parent separation, and childhood health issues with 20% reporting multiple ACEs. Those who experienced childhood violence had a 40% higher risk of mobility issues and 80% higher risk of activity difficulties later. Those from unhappy families were 40% more likely to have mild cognitive impairment.

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