In a new study, researchers found that children who experience trauma, abuse, neglect, and family dysfunction are at increased risk of having heart disease in their 50s and 60s.
They showed people exposed to the highest levels of childhood family environment adversity were more than 50% more likely to have a heart attack or stroke over a 30-year follow-up.
The study of more than 3,600 participants is among the first to describe the trajectory of heart disease and death based on family environment ratings from young adulthood into older middle age.
The research was conducted by a team at Northwestern Medicine.
Children who experience this type of adversity are predisposed to higher rates of lifelong stress, smoking, anxiety, depression, and sedentary lifestyle that persist into adulthood.
These can lead to increased body mass index (BMI), diabetes, increased blood pressure, vascular dysfunction, and inflammation.
The team says early childhood experiences have a lasting effect on adult mental and physical well-being.
A large number of American kids continue to suffer abuse and dysfunction that will leave a toll on health and social functioning issues throughout their lives.
Social and economic support for young children in the United States, which is low by the standards of other developed countries, has the biggest ‘bang for the buck’ of any social program.
Adults who were exposed to these risk factors as children may benefit from counseling on the link between coping with stress and controlling smoking and obesity, but more research is needed.
One author of the study is Jacob Pierce.
The study is published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
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