Physically or emotionally abused girls have an increased risk of early death. The authors of the study explain that previous research already showed childhood adversities as being linked to premature death.
The connection between abuse in childhood and death expectancy was found only in women, not in men.
The Abused Girls Study
The study involved the analysis of reports stating emotional and physical abuse occurring in childhood. The researchers correlated the cases with death rates in adulthood. The total number of cases was of 6,285 people, with an average age of 47.
In 1995 and 1996, the participants had to complete a questionnaire concerning their abuse experiences during childhood. Now, the researchers looked into the mortality data from the last two decades and confirmed that 1,091 deaths occurred until October 2015.
The results showed that the women who twenty years ago reported having been victims of moderate physical or emotional abuse while they were children had a higher risk of mortality.
Women who reported abuse were up to 1.3 times more likely to die in the following twenty years than those who were not abused in childhood. Moreover, women who reported severe physical abuse were 1.6 more prone to die during the monitoring period.
The researchers discovered that the increase in death risk remained the same even if they eliminated factors such as the socioeconomic status during childhood or depression during adulthood.
Theories and Future Research
An expert from the Pennsylvania State University states that the most obvious explanation is that abuse during childhood may lead to health problems, both mental and physical, and it also correlates with risky behavior. The latter can be incorrectly used as coping mechanism, when in fact, drug and alcohol abuse can affect longevity.
However, another theory says that biological factors can also be at blame. The experts say that the experiences we have during childhood may leave a fingerprint in the cells function which would later influence the malfunction of these biological roles and a general shutdown of the body.
The difference in men and women may be related to the way the two sexes cope with stress and the fact that there are different hormonal responses which will, later on, influence longevity.
Even if the abuse had been self-reported and therefore subjective, the researchers believe that the results are genuine and will continue with different analysis settings in order to prove the validity of the present study’s conclusion.
The researchers will further replicate the analysis by using cases of abuse that had been court-verified, trying to monitor the development of diseases and mortality risks.
Image Source: Pixabay