Childhood abuse link to heart disease


By Julie Robotham
October 9, 2004

Childhood experiences of abuse and neglect can increase dramatically the risk of developing heart disease in later life, research shows for the first time.

Having been emotionally abused as a child increases by 70 per cent the chance a person will be diagnosed with heart disease by their 50s, while physical violence raises the risk by 50 per cent. Growing up in a family where there is mental illness, substance abuse or criminality also increases the risk, a US Government-funded study of more than 17,000 people found.

The more types of abuse or neglect a person experiences, the higher the risk of developing heart disease.

The study comes amid rising political acknowledgement in Australia and overseas of the importance of early childhood and family support services for healthy social adjustment and educational achievement.

The study suggested that heart specialists would have to look more closely at patients' psychological and social backgrounds.