New evidence suggests an intriguing link between chronic physical problems later in life with an early childhood mental disorder diagnosis, or other childhood psychological problems.
Researchers led by Kate M. Scott from the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand, examined data from 10 countries that participated in the World Health Organization World Mental Health Surveys program. These cross-sectional community surveys were conducted in person by trained lay interviewers.
Early childhood mental disorders — primarily depression and anxiety — were assessed by the definitions and criteria of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). Other childhood adversities included abuse, neglect, loss of a parent through death or other means, divorce, parental substance use, parental criminal behavior, family violence and family economic adversity.
Each of the early-onset mental disorders included was associated with adult onset of three chronic pain conditions: osteoarthritis, chronic back or neck spinal pain, and frequent or severe headache.
Physical abuse as a child was associated with six chronic diseases: heart disease, asthma, diabetes, osteoarthritis, chronic spinal pain and headache.
After adjusting for childhood adversities, early-onset mental disorders were still associated with adult-onset chronic physical conditions.
The researchers’ results also suggest a dose-response relationship, with a greater number of childhood adversities associated with a greater likelihood of adult-onset chronic physical conditions.
“In prior research that has considered the influence of the early psychosocial environment on later physical health, mental disorders have generally been out of the frame of consideration, which may be an important oversight,” the authors noted in the study.
“These results are consistent with the hypothesis that childhood adversities and early-onset mental disorders have independent, broad-spectrum effects that increase the risk of diverse chronic physical conditions in later life,” they conclude.
The study is published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
Source: Archives of General Psychiatry