3 in 5 adults in Canada have bad childhoods, study finds

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In a new study, researchers found that roughly three in every five Canadian adults have been exposed to childhood abuse, neglect, intimate partner violence or other household adversity.

They showed that adverse childhood experiences are highly prevalent in the Canadian population, with 62% of Canadian adults aged 45 to 85 reporting at least one exposure

The research was conducted by a team at McMaster University.

The study used data collected from 44,817 people enrolled in the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA), a large, national population-based study of health and aging.

The participants completed questionnaires about adverse childhood experiences through telephone and face-to-face interviews between 2015 and 2018.

The team found childhood exposure to physical abuse, intimate partner violence and emotional abuse were the most prevalent types of adverse childhood experiences reported across all participants.

More than one in four adults reported exposure to physical abuse, and one in five reported exposure to intimate partner violence and emotional abuse in childhood.

The researchers found that adverse childhood experiences were highly prevalent across all demographic groups, although some groups experienced an unequal or greater burden.

People younger than 65 years, women, those with less education, lower annual household income, and those of non-heterosexual orientation reported greater exposure.

The research also showed that exposure to adverse childhood events varied across Canadian provinces.

The team says scientists need to take measures to improve the quality of household environments, support positive parenting and promote healthy child development, as well as integrate trauma-informed care to prevent the negative consequences of adverse childhood experiences.

The study is published in CMAJ Open. One author of the study is Divya Joshi.

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