U. QUEENSLAND (AUS) — Adults who were abused and neglected—physically and emotionally—as children may be at higher risk for mental health problems, drug use, and sexually transmitted infections.
Researchers reviewed all published studies that included health outcomes for individuals who had been physically or emotionally abused, or neglected in childhood
Most of the 124 studies included in their analysis were from high income countries (Western Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand) but only 16 studies used a prospective design in which researchers followed abused or neglected children over time to identify later health outcomes. Their findings are published in the online journal PLOS Medicine.
The researchers established a link between anxiety disorders, drug abuse, and suicidal behavior and childhood abuse.
They also found that children who had been maltreated had a higher risk of sexually transmitted infections and/or risky sexual behavior as adults than people who had not experienced abuse.
Those who were emotionally abused were about three times more likely to develop depression compared to adults who were not abused or neglected when they were young. Those who were physically abused or neglected also face an increased risk for depression.
Study leader Rosana Norman from the School of Population Health at the University of Queensland says the evidence suggests a causal relationship between non-sexual child maltreatment and a range of mental disorders.
She says the study confirms that all forms of child maltreatment should be considered important risks to health with a sizeable impact on major contributors to the burden of disease in all parts of the world.
“The awareness of the serious long-term consequences of child maltreatment should encourage better identification of those at risk and the development of effective interventions to protect children from violence,” Norman says.
Source: University of Queensland