Adults who had Stress in Childhood (3)

Adult patients seen by primary care medical clinicians often are affected by stress in childhood.  Recent evidence of this is a study of 380 women at a medical clinic at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland *.  Their survey asked about physical or sexual childhood abuse and assessed the impact of these on physical symptoms.

A remarkable 36% of their subjects reported having been abused as children.  The study did not ask about other forms of family dysfunction such as emotional abuse or neglect, parental alcoholism or inter-parental violence or the proportion would have been even higher.  The child abuse group had a 37% higher score than the not-abused group on the part of the survey that measured physical symptoms.  This implies a huge impact of child abuse on health care utilization.  This was happening even though the average age of these patients was 51, meaning that the abuse was decades in the past for most of them.

The bad news here is that medical clinicians usually focus on the patient’s physical symptoms and not on the underlying issues described in this study.  The good news is that research like this will increase awareness that uncovering these problems can help find the root cause of many symptoms.  More about this study in the next post.

* Nicolaidis, C et al.  Differences in Physical and Mental Health Symptoms and Mental Health Utilization Associated with Intimate-Partner Violence versus Childhood Abuse.      Psychosomatics 50:4, Jul-Aug 2009.

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