Adult Disease Linked to Childhood Sexual, Emotional, Physical Abuse

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that abuse suffered in childhood often reappears as physical or mental illness and bad health habits in adults.

Nine thousand people were interviewed about their childhood experiences, their current health, and health habits. Researchers found that people who had experienced four or more types of childhood abuse were two to four times more likely to smoke, to suffer frequent physical and/or mental illness, to be sexually promiscuous, and up to 1.6 times more likely to be obese than adults who did not suffer abuse as children.

Dr. Vincent Felitti, co-author of the study, said that the effects of childhood abuse may be “hard-wired” into the brain. “There are two mechanisms here — the psychological and emotional consequences and, two, the long-term neurological consequences,” said Felitti. This physiological change to the brain may explain why it is so difficult for people to recover from childhood abuses.

The study urges the medical community to spend more time and money preventing disease and alleviating the causes of disease, instead of using the bulk of its resources to treat patients who already suffer from disease. Felitti argued that additional time spent on patients’ emotional health will save time and money in the long run. “Large amounts of time are already being spent on these patients,” he noted.


AP - May 15, 1998

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