Abused children face a much higher chance of getting a chronic disease
CHILDREN who are abused or bullied are more likely to develop chronic diseases later in life.
Irish researchers have found that people with two or more chronic diseases at the same time were more likely to report having "adverse experiences in childhood" than people without multiple chronic diseases.
People were asked about their adverse childhood experiences using a questionnaire which was pioneered in the US.
The questions included whether a person was often, or very often, threatened, beaten, sexually abused, had not enough to eat, or had parents who were incarcerated or had addiction issues.
The Health Research Board (HRB) funded the research at University College Cork.
The research, which was just published in the journal Family Practice, involved 2,047 adults aged between 50 and 69.
The study is the first to show that adverse childhood experiences are a specific concern in patients with two or more chronic diseases at the same time.
Dr Graham Love, the chief executive of the HRB, said that recent estimates suggest that by 2020 around 40pc of the adult Irish population will have one or more chronic diseases.
"Therefore it is essential that we get a better understanding of what causes, and what might cure these conditions and how we can improve treatments," Mr Love said.
He said the discovery, which shows an association between adverse childhood experience and the development of chronic disease, has the potential to help on both these fronts.
HRB research fellow Dr Carol Sinnott, who was the lead author on the paper, said that people who reported adverse childhood experiences were 60pc more likely to develop two or more chronic diseases at the same time.
"This relationship was independent of factors such as whether the person had a lower level of education, poor diet, lacked exercise or suffered from anxiety or depression," Dr Sinnott said.
Dr Sinnott said that the results have implications in a number of different areas.
"From a public health perspective, interventions that target the coping strategies of survivors of childhood abuse and neglect may yield future benefits in chronic disease prevention," said Dr Sinnott.
"For example, interventions to help survivors avoid destructive coping strategies, such as alcohol abuse, smoking and drug abuse. These behaviours are significant contributors to the development of many chronic diseases.
"A person-centred, rather than a disease-centred, approach is likely to yield better results," she added.