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Childhood Maltreatment as a Risk Factor for Adult Cardiovascular Disease and Depression.
Background: Traumatic experiences in childhood are linked to adult depression and cardiovascular disease. Depression is twice as common in women than men, and depression after cardiovascular events is more common in women than men. However, sex differences in these relationships have not been comprehensively investigated using a nationally representative sample in which demographic factors related to these illnesses can be controlled.
Method: Data come from the Part 2 sample of the U.S. National Comorbidity Survey, a nationally representative sample containing over 5000 adults. Relationships between childhood maltreatment (sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect), adult depression (DSM-III-R), and cardiovascular disease were examined using multiple logistic regression models with a specific emphasis on the evaluation of sex differences.
Results: Childhood maltreatment was associated with a significant increase in cardiovascular disease for women only and with a significant increase in lifetime depression for both genders. A history of childhood maltreatment removed the natural protection against cardiovascular disease for women and depression for men. Although depression and cardiovascular disease were correlated, depression did not contribute to the prediction of cardiovascular disease in women when controlling for history of childhood maltreatment.
Conclusions: Gender is important in evaluating potential psychiatric and physical correlates of childhood maltreatment. Maltreatment is a potent risk factor for cardiovascular disease in women and for depression in both women and men. Effective clinical assessment should recognize the role of childhood abuse or neglect in adult health and disease. Research on the consequences of childhood maltreatment should focus on both psychiatric and physical outcomes.