All forms of child maltreatment should be considered important risks to health, with a significant impact on the burden of disease in all parts of the world.
Led by Dr Rosana Norman from The University of Queensland (Australia), the study also found evidence that child maltreatment increased the risk of chronic diseases and life-style risk factors, such as smoking, in later life.
The authors, including academic staff at the UQ and a few members from the World Health Organization (WHO), reviewed all published studies on health outcomes for individuals who had been physically or emotionally abused, or neglected, in childhood.
Most of the 124 studies included in their analysis were from high income countries (Western Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand), but only in 16 of them researchers followed abused or neglected children over time to identify later health outcomes.
They found that individuals who had been emotionally abused as children were about three times more likely to develop depression, while individuals who had been physically abused or neglected were about two times more likely to develop depression than people who had not been abused or neglected.
The review also established a link between childhood abuse and anxiety disorders, drug abuse and suicidal behaviour, besides finding that children who had been maltreated had a higher risk of sexually transmitted infections and/or risky sexual behaviour as adults than those who had not experienced abuse.
According to the authors, the evidence suggests a causal relationship between child maltreatment and a range of mental disorders. The study confirms that all forms of child maltreatment should be considered important risks to health, with a sizeable impact on major contributors to the burden of disease in all parts of the world.
“The awareness of the serious long-term consequences of child maltreatment should encourage better identification of those at risk, and the development of effective interventions to protect children from violence” - Dr Rosana Norman
The paper can be read in full here: http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1001349
*extracted from The University of Queensland news website. Edited by Kika Salvi.