South American Study: Exposure to Violence as A Child Ups Risk of Mental Disorders

Emerging research finds that reducing socioeconomic status inequalities and preventing violent events during childhood may improve the mental health of youths. The measures were found especially helpful among youth from low socioeconomic status backgrounds.

Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and Federal University of São Paulo discovered that having experienced any traumatic event and low socioeconomic status led to mental health issues.

Investigators found exposure to trauma among kids from low SES increased risk for internalizing disorders such as depression and anxiety, and an externalizing disorders, including attention-deficit hyperactivity.

The results appear online in the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry.

The study was conducted in two different neighborhoods in the city of São Paulo, Brazil, one urban and one more rural.
One-hundred and eighty 12-year-olds from public schools and their caregivers were interviewed to determine the influence of previous violent events and of socioeconomic status on the prevalence of psychiatric disorders.

The research team led by Silvia Martins, M.D., Ph.D., used a structured interview process to evaluate psychiatric disorders including: internalizing disorders (depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder) and externalizing disorders (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder and oppositional-defiant disorder).

Investigators discovered nearly one-quarter (22 percent) of the youths had a psychiatric disorder. Depression and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder were the most common diagnoses, at 9.5 percent, and nine percent, respectively, followed by anxiety disorder at six percent.

A total of 14 percent of the sample had an internalizing disorder, nearly half of whom were males (45 percent). Another 15.5 percent had an externalizing disorder. Almost 60 percent of the adolescents with any diagnosis had experienced at least one violent event during their lifetime.

“If Brazil invests more to tackle socio-economic inequalities as well as to prevent exposure to urban violence in childhood and adolescence, the country will most likely be able to prevent the development of several cases of adolescent psychiatric disorders,” said Martins.

Source: Columbia/EurekAlert