A new study, very kindly shared with Researching Reform by pioneering professor Dr Joan Durrant, suggests that abuse suffered in childhood is associated with significantly increased odds of poor health, which last long into adulthood. The study also explains the importance of acknowledging the link between child abuse and physical conditions so that better health care provisions can be offered.

The study found that abuse in childhood was associated with:

“Arthritis, back problems, high blood pressure, migraine headaches, chronic bronchitis/emphysema/COPD, cancer, stroke, bowel disease, and chronic fatigue syndrome in adulthood, even when sociodemographic characteristics, smoking, and obesity were taken into account.

Child abuse remained associated with back problems, migraine headaches, and bowel disease when further adjusting for mental conditions and other physical conditions. Sex was also found to be a significant moderator between child abuse problems, chronic bronchitis/emphysema/COPD, cancer, and chronic fatigue syndrome, with slightly stronger effects for women than men.”

The conclusions drawn from the data are important. There is clearly a need for more research on the ways in which child abuse affects a person’s physical health, as opposed to mental health which is more widely documented, and that an increased awareness in the role child abuse plays in relation to physical wellbeing should be encouraged amongst medical professionals.

The study is a must read for anyone working with or looking after vulnerable children.