Early-Life Physical, Sexual Abuse Tied to Early Death

In HealthDay News
by Healthday

Premature adult mortality before age 70 years seen in study of middle-aged women followed for 18 years

By Lori Solomon HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, May 8, 2023 (HealthDay News) — Early life physical and sexual abuse is associated with a greater risk for adult premature mortality, according to a study published online May 3 in The BMJ.

Yi-Xin Wang, from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues explored associations between early-life physical and sexual abuse and the subsequent risk for premature mortality (death before age 70 years). The analysis included data from 67,726 female nurses who completed a violence victimization questionnaire at 37 to 54 years of age and were followed for 18 years.

The researchers found that participants who experienced severe physical abuse or forced sexual activity in childhood and adolescence had a higher crude premature mortality rate versus those without such abuse (age-adjusted hazard ratios [HRs] for premature deaths were 1.65 and 2.04, respectively). Findings persisted when further adjusting for personal characteristics and early-life socioeconomic status. Severe physical abuse was associated with a greater risk for mortality due to external causes of injury and poisoning (multivariable adjusted HR, 2.81), suicide (HR, 3.05), and diseases of the digestive system (HR, 2.40). For forced sexual activity as a child and adolescent, a greater risk for premature mortality was seen for cardiovascular disease (HR, 2.48), external injury or poisoning (HR, 3.25), suicide (HR, 4.30), respiratory disease (HR, 3.74), and diseases of the digestive system (HR, 4.83). Roughly 3.9 to 22.4 percent of the association between early-life abuse and premature mortality was explained by smoking, low physical activity, anxiety, or depression.

“Efforts to prevent child abuse might have long reaching benefits for population health and longevity by reducing premature mortality,” the authors write.

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