Should Childhood Trauma Be Treated As A Public Health Crisis?

When public health officials get wind of an outbreak of Hepatitis A or influenza, they spring into action with public awareness campaigns, monitoring and outreach. But should they be acting with equal urgency when it comes to childhood trauma?

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests the answer should be yes. It shows how the effects of childhood trauma persist and are linked to mental illness and addiction in adulthood. And, researchers say, it suggests that it might be more effective to approach trauma as a public health crisis than to limit treatment to individuals.

The study drew on the experiences of participants from the Great Smoky Mountains Study, which followed 1,420 children from mostly rural parts of western North Carolina, over a period of 22 years. They were interviewed annually during their childhood, then four additional times during adulthood.

Full story at NPR

Childhood trauma link offers treatment hope for people with schizophrenia

People with schizophrenia may now benefit from more effective, tailored treatments and greater self-empowerment, thanks to research establishing a link between childhood trauma and some of schizophrenia’s most common symptoms.

Researchers from Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence for Youth Mental Health; the University of Melbourne; Port Phillip Prison and University Hospital of Gran Canaria Dr Negrin, Spain, have shown that childhood sexual, physical and emotional abuse are associated with severe hallucinations in schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders.

The study’s strongest finding was that hallucinations in those with psychotic disorders were associated with all types of childhood trauma, said Dr Sarah Bendall, the study’s lead author and head of trauma research at Orygen. “This means there’s something about childhood trauma that leads some people to develop hallucinations,” Dr Bendall said.

Full story at Science Daily

Opioid epidemic linked to childhood emotional abuse, study shows

A study by researchers at the University of Vermont has revealed a link between adult opioid misuse and childhood emotional abuse, a new finding that suggests a rethinking of treatment approaches for opioid abusers.

To uncover the link to emotional abuse, the study, published in the current issue of Addictive Behaviors, analysed and cross referenced the results of a series of psychological tests administered to a sample of 84 individuals with a history of problem opioid use who had also suffered childhood trauma.

Earlier research has found that a high percentage of adults who abuse substances were maltreated in a variety of ways as children. But few previous studies have investigated the causes of opioid addiction specifically, and no earlier ones narrowed the link among opioid users to emotional abuse.

Full story of opioid epidemic linked to childhood emotional abuse at Science Daily

Resilience affects whether childhood trauma results in harmful gene response

In a first-ever study to identify how trauma affects gene expression among child soldiers, a Duke researcher and colleagues found resilience to be a key factor in determining individual response at the molecular level.

Previous research has shown that chronic exposure to trauma is associated with an increase in pro-inflammatory gene expression and a decrease in antibodies and antiviral responses in immune cells. Those molecular responses have been linked to cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, infections and mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression.

Brandon Kohrt, M.D., Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and global health at Duke, and colleagues conducted a five-year longitudinal study of former child soldiers exposed to the trauma of a decade-long civil war in Nepal. The findings were published during the week of July 11 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Full story of childhood trauma and gene responses at Science Daily

Childhood trauma could lead to adult obesity

Being subjected to abuse during childhood entails a markedly increased risk of developing obesity as an adult. This is the conclusion of a meta-analysis carried out on previous studies, which included a total of 112,000 participants. The analysis was conducted by researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, and has been published in the journalObesity Reviews.

“The study clearly shows that difficult life events leave traces which can manifest as disease much later in life. The mechanisms behind this process include stress, negative patterns of thought and emotions, poor mental health, increased inflammation, as well as lowered immune function and metabolism,” says Erik Hemmingsson, researcher at the Huddinge Department of Medicine at Karolinska Institutet, who is also linked to the Karolinska University Hospital’s Obesity Centre in Huddinge, Stockholm County.

Based on a meta-analysis, in which 23 studies with a total of 112,000 participants, he and his colleagues calculated that the risk of obesity was 34 percent higher among adults who had been subjected to abuse as children than among non-abused adults. When categorised based on different forms of abuse, the study showed that physical abuse during childhood increased the risk of obesity by 28 percent, emotional abuse by 36 percent, sexual abuse by 31 percent, and general abuse by 45 percent. Among those who had been subjected to severe abuse, the risk increased by 50 percent, compared to 13 per cent for moderate abuse.

Full story of childhood trauma and adult obesity at Science Daily