Childhood adversity linked to COVID hospitalization and death later

Respiratory Therapist Nirali Patel works with a COVID-19 patient in the ICU at Rush University Medial Center on January 31, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

People who endured childhood adversity, like abuse or neglect, were more likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19 in adulthood, a new study finds.

Specifically, higher self-reported childhood adversity was linked to 12-25% higher odds of COVID-19 hospitalization and mortality.

While age, sex, ethnicity, health, and sociodemographic factors have been related to such outcomes throughout the pandemic, this is the first study finding a link between these COVID-19 outcomes and childhood neglect and abuse.

Using the UK Biobank in Great Britain, researchers took a deep dive into information provided by more than 151,200 adults of middle age or older. What the numbers showed was that people who reported “adversity” such as abuse or neglect in childhood were more likely to die or be hospitalized from COVID-19.

“These findings highlight how trauma early in life can have long-lasting impacts on health decades later,” says lead study author Jamie L. Hanson, an assistant professor in psychology and a researcher in the Learning Research & Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh.

“We know that COVID-19 is related to excessive hospitalization and death in the UK and in the United States. And there’s emerging research finding that facing adversity, abuse, or neglect, early in life, could have sizable effects on physical health.

“But no one had tried to connect these two trends. Knowing a bit more about someone’s early development could be important to help reduce disparities in COVID-19.”

While Hanson and his coauthors maintain that their work opens the door for more pinpointed and global studies, they believe their findings show there could be a need for policies and interventions to lessen COVID-19 impacts in people who have suffered from such childhood adversity.

“We may need targeted interventions for individuals and certain communities affected by childhood adversity to lessen the pandemic’s lasting impact,” Hanson says.

Adversity may lead to risk for negative outcomes and the potential to have long-COVID. We need to complete more work to understand how adversity gets ‘under the skin’ and increases vulnerability to poor health after COVID-19 infections.”

In other words, as the coauthors wrote, not just COVID-19 but such findings could be used “to limit adversity-related negative outcomes with future pandemics.”

The study appears in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Source: University of Pittsburgh