Free Press Journal

Childhood poverty, parental abuse cause diseases


Depressed little girl

New York: Poverty or parental abuse can lead to cancer and heart diseases in later life, according to a study.

American researchers have found that growing up in poverty or being abused by parents during childhood lead to adult behavioural problems and diseases.

“Childhood disadvantage has long-term health consequences much longer than most of us realise,” said Kenneth F Ferraro from Purdue University.

“A novel aspect of this study is that childhood disadvantage is linked to the onset of new health problems decades later,” Ferraro added in the paper published in a journal in American Sociological Review.

To measure health changes in the adult population, data of 1,748 adults was collected in two waves.

Wave 1 was in 1996 with participants in the age of 25 to 74 years and Wave 2 was in 2006 with participants in the age of 35 to 84 years.

“However, when we revisited the participants 10 years later, childhood poverty and frequent abuse were related to the onset of health problems, such as cancer and heart disease, even after we adjusted to risk factors including health lifestyle and socio-economic status,” Ferraro explained.

In addition to childhood poverty and parental abuse, family composition was also measured.

The link between the childhood experiences and adult outcomes were examined for potential mediating effects.

Family composition affected four of the 14 outcomes, including the likelihood of smoking and financial strain during adulthood.

In comparison, childhood poverty affected nine outcomes and parental abuse affected 11 outcomes, such as smoking and heavy alcohol consumption.

If both parents were abusive, it escalated the risk of health problems.

“But, now that we have identified some of the early origins of adult disease, we should focus on greater resources, even during midlife, to break the chain of risks,” Ferraro said.