According to a recently published study by University of Toronto researchers, older persons who experienced physical abuse as children were much more likely to experience chronic pain and chronic physical illnesses in later life.
In comparison to those who did not experience this early trauma, they had a twofold increased risk of developing depression and anxiety disorders.
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.
The physical illnesses that developed included diabetes, cancer, migraines, arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and chronic-obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
The links between childhood abuse and poor physical and mental health persisted even after accounting for income, education, smoking, binge drinking, and other causes of poor health.
"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.