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Heart Disease More Likely for Adults With Adverse Childhoods

New study establishes link between childhood family environment and adult health

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Children who experience trauma, abuse, neglect, and family dysfunction are at increased risk of having heart disease as adults, according to a new study by community health scholar and IPR associate Joe Feinglass, along with Jacob Pierce, a fourth-year medical student at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and several colleagues.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, showed people in their 50s and 60s who were exposed to the highest levels of childhood adversity were over 50% more likely to have a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke. The longitudinal study of more than 3,600 participants over a 30-year follow-up is among the first to describe the trajectory of cardiovascular disease and death based on family environment ratings from young adulthood into older middle age.

Children who experience this type of adversity tend to have higher rates of lifelong stress, smoking, anxiety, depression, and sedentary lifestyle that persist into adulthood.

“Early childhood experiences have a lasting effect on adult mental and physical well-being, and a large number of American kids continue to suffer abuse and dysfunction that will leave a toll of health and social functioning issues throughout their lives,” Feinglass said.

For Journalists: View the news release for media contacts. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Published: April 28, 2020.