Children who experience abuse or other adversities and develop mental health disorders are at greater risk for chronic physical problems when they're adults.
Child maltreatment has been associated with increased risk of adverse physical health outcomes. In prior research that examined the influence of early psychosocial environment on later physical health, the potentially biasing presence of current mental disorders has generally been ignored. Researchers examined data from people in 10 countries included in the World Health Organization World Mental Health Surveys initiative. The team looked at anxiety disorders and depression in children and at the following childhood adversities: abuse, neglect, loss of a parent through death or other causes, divorce, parental substance abuse, parental criminal behaviour, family violence and being poor. These community surveys were conducted in person by trained interviewers.
Both anxiety and depression in childhood were associated with three chronic pain conditions in adulthood: osteoarthritis, chronic spinal pain (back or neck), and frequent or severe headache. Physical abuse in childhood was associated with a number of chronic diseases in adulthood: heart disease, asthma, diabetes, osteoarthritis, chronic spinal pain and headache, it was found.
The greater the number of childhood adversities, the higher the risk of physical health problems in adulthood.
These results are consistent with the hypothesis that childhood adversities and early-onset mental disorders have independent, broad-spectrum effects that increase the risk of diverse chronic physical conditions in later life.