Strong relationships may counter health effects of childhood abuse

Child abuse in Malaysia
Child abuse in Malaysia (Representational Picture) Reuters

A strong and supportive relationship in midlife may act as a buffer against the poor health outcomes as well as premature mortality risk in adulthood for the victims of childhood abuses, researchers have claimed.

Childhood abuses has been linked with many serious health consequences in adulthood including premature mortality, heart disease, stroke and some cancers.

But, a social support was found to lower mortality risk by 19 to 26 per cent depending on whether it was a severe physical abuse, moderate physical abuse or emotional abuse.

Social support was also associated with a more modest seven to eight per cent lower mortality risk in those who suffered minimal or had no exposure to abuse, the researcher said.

"The study provides evidence suggesting that experiences long after exposure to abuse can mitigate the mortality risks associated with early abuse," said post-doctoral student Jessica Chiang, from Northwestern University in the US.

For the study, published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, the researchers included 6,000 US adults and examined whether adult social support decreased mortality risk associated with exposure to three types of childhood abuse: severe physical abuse, modest physical abuse and emotional abuse.

"Many of the diseases associated with childhood abuse typically emerge in middle and later stages of adulthood -- decades after the abuse actually occurred," Chiang said.

"We were curious as to whether social support during this 'incubation' period or interim could offset health risks associated with much earlier experiences of abuse," she added.

The results showed the magnitude of the reduction in mortality risk associated with midlife social support differed between the individuals who reported childhood abuse and those who reported minimal or no childhood abuse. (IANS)