Child maltreatment is associated with reductions in quality of life even decades later, according to a new University of Georgia study that finds that—on average—victims lose at least two years of quality of life.
Associate professor Phaedra Corso and her colleagues analyzed surveys of more than 6,000 people to assess the deficits in quality of life that victims suffer. Their results appear in the June issue of the American Journal of Public Health.
“We found that there are significant differences in health-related quality of life between people who were maltreated as children and those who were not,” Corso said, “and that holds across all age groups.”
Childhood maltreatment—which includes physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect—has been linked to an increased risk for ailments ranging from heart disease, obesity and diabetes to depression and anxiety. Corso said there are two reasons why.
First, childhood maltreatment increases the likelihood of unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, substance abuse and sexual promiscuity.
Secondly that repeated exposure to the stress caused by maltreatment alters brain circuits and hormonal systems, which puts victims at greater risk of chronic health problems.
The researchers found that 46 percent of people reported some form of maltreatment during childhood. Of those;
- 26 percent reported physical abuse;
- 21 percent reported sexual abuse;
- 10 percent reported emotional abuse;
- 14 percent reported emotional neglect; and
- 9 percent reported physical neglect.
To assess reductions in quality of life, the team matched responses to a survey that assessed physical functioning, pain, cognitive functioning and social support with data from surveys that explicitly asked people how many years of life they would trade to be free of a given health condition. Throughout a lifetime, their responses translates to a loss of two years of quality-adjusted life expectancy.
“Every year gets diminished in some respect,” Corso said, “because the person who was maltreated has a lower quality of life than the person who wasn’t.”
“The long-term consequences of child maltreatment are very real and concerning. All children should have safe, stable and nurturing environments in which to grow and develop,” said Ileana Arias, director of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. “For children and adults to live to their full potential, we must support programs that stop child maltreatment before it ever begins and work to help those who have already experienced it.”
The researchers caution that the two-year reduction in quality of life undoubtedly underestimates the true impact of childhood maltreatment.
Children experience severe reductions in quality of life as maltreatment is occurring, and surveys of adults don’t account for those reductions.
“A lot of the time people don’t consider violence as a public health issue,” Corso said, “but there’s a body of evidence that exists now that shows long-term health impacts of childhood maltreatment.”
Full story at; Child Maltreatment