According to a new study by University of Toronto researchers, older people who were physically abused as children and developed trauma were far more likely to have chronic pain and chronic physical ailments later in life. They exhibited a twofold greater chance of developing depression and anxiety disorders compared to individuals who did not encounter this early trauma.
The study’s findings were published in the journal ‘Aging and Health Research.’
The findings of the research were published in the journal ‘Aging and Health Research’. “Sadly, our findings suggest that the traumatic experience of childhood physical abuse can influence both physical and mental health many decades later. It also underlines the importance of assessing for adverse childhood experiences among patients of all ages, including older adults,” said Anna Buhrmann, who began this research for her undergraduate thesis in the Bachelor of Arts and Science program at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario and is a research assistant at the Institute of Life Course & Aging at the University of Toronto.
Diabetes, cancer, migraines, arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease were among the physical ailments that occurred (COPD). Even after controlling for poverty, education, smoking, binge drinking, and other risk factors, the associations between childhood maltreatment and poor physical and mental health persisted.
“Health professionals serving older adults need to be aware that it is never too late to refer people for counselling. A promising intervention, cognitive behavioral therapy [CBT], has been tested and found effective at reducing post-traumatic stress disorder and depressive and anxiety symptoms among survivors of childhood abuse,” said co-author Professor Esme Fuller-Thomson, who supervised Buhrmann’s thesis research.
Fuller-Thomson is the Director of the Institute of Life Course & Aging at the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto.
The cross-sectional study was unable to identify the particular routes via which physical maltreatment as a kid impacts an individual’s health later in life. According to current research, childhood physical abuse causes a number of physiological changes, including dysregulation of systems that govern the body’s reaction to stress.
Future study into disturbances to these systems, which are already connected to a variety of medical and mental diseases, such as elevated cortisol levels, may provide insight on the experience of childhood abuse victims.
This study’s data came from a representative sample of persons aged 60 and above in the Canadian province of British Columbia. It contrasted 409 older persons who had a history of childhood physical abuse to 4,659 of their contemporaries who had not been physically assaulted as children. The information came from the Canadian Community Health Survey.
What is childhood trauma?
“Childhood trauma” refers to a scary, dangerous, violent, or life threatening event that happens to a child (0-18 years of age). This type of event may also happen to someone your child knows and your child is impacted as a result of seeing or hearing about the other person being hurt or injured. When these types of experiences happen, your child may become very overwhelmed, upset, and/or feel helpless. These types of experiences can happen to anyone at any time and at any age; however, not all events have a traumatic impact.
A traumatic experience is one that is frightening, hazardous, or violent. When we confront or see an urgent threat to ourselves or a loved one, it can be distressing, and it is frequently followed by significant damage or harm (NCTSN Parents and Caregivers Website). This might result in feelings such as dread, loss, or distress.
People may experience these forms of powerful unpleasant emotions in response to an encounter or because they lack the capacity to defend or prevent the event from occurring. Reactions to a traumatic experience can have long-term consequences for an individual’s everyday functioning, including changes in a child’s mental, physical, social, emotional, and/or spiritual health.