A new Canadian population health study finds that childhood aggression is strongly linked to high utilization of medical resources and overall poor health in adulthood.
A multi-university research team looked at data from the Concordia Longitudinal Risk Project to determine the impact of childhood aggression on health service usage in adulthood.
The Concordia Longitudinal Risk Project involved 3913 people who were in grades 1, 4 and 7 from 1976 to 1978 and who received health care in Quebec between 1992 and 2006.
Prior studies have suggested that aggression in childhood is associated with health risks such as unprotected sex, teen pregnancy and single motherhood, dropping out of high school, poverty and dangerous driving.
In the current investigation, researchers found childhood aggression resulted in an 8.1 percent increase in medical visits, a 10.7 percent increase in injuries and a 44.2 percent increase in lifestyle-related illnesses (such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and alcohol dependence).
Visit to specialists were increased by 6.2 percent and there were 12.4 percent more visits to emergency departments.
Childhood aggression in young women (18 to 23 years old) resulted in higher use of gynecologic services, a finding consistent with other studies.
Investigators discovered people with lower levels of education were more likely to use health services.
“Childhood aggression directly and positively predicted overall use of health services in adulthood for the participants of this study, as well as the number of visits they made to specialists, emergency departments and dentists, the number of times they were admitted to hospital, and the number of medical visits they made due to lifestyle-related illnesses and injuries,” writes Dr. Caroline Temcheff, Université de Sherbrooke, with coauthors.
“These associations were seen even when controlling for the effects of sex, education and neighborhood poverty.”
In accordance, childhood likeability was correlated with lower usage of medical services, including those for injuries and dental visits.
Researchers believe these associations are consistent with findings that suggest adults with larger social networks seem to have better health outcomes than those who are less socially connected.
“Our results confirm that there are specific behavioral characteristics, identifiable in childhood, that can have enduring consequences to physical health and can predict increased use of health services in adulthood,” write the authors.
“Childhood aggression should be considered a health risk when designing interventions to improve public health, particularly those targeting children and families.”
“Addressing problematic childhood behavior and teaching appropriate ways of interacting, self-care and coping strategies to vulnerable children will probably require early preventive intervention to mitigate long-term risks to health.”
The study is found in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.