London: Researchers have found that adversity in childhood increases the risk of premature death in early adulthood (16-36 years of age).
Childhood adversity includes child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, bullying, serious accidents or injuries, discrimination, extreme poverty, and community violence.
In a study, published in the journal The Lancet, the researchers have recorded social and stressful adversity in childhood among one million Danish children. The research team divided the children into five groups depending on the degree of adversity experienced in childhood.
“The more stressful experiences they have experienced during childhood, the higher the mortality rate in early adulthood,” said study author Naja Hulvej Rod from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.
“For the most vulnerable children, the mortality rate is surprisingly 4.5 times higher,” Rod added.
The higher mortality rate mainly manifests itself in suicide and accidents, but the study also shows a higher risk of dying from cancer in this group.
According to the researchers, the results of the study stress the critical importance of broad structural public health initiatives to reduce stressful adversity in childhood.
For example, prevention of childhood poverty and other adversity in childhood. With time, it may help reduce social inequality in health.
In the study, social adversity is defined as financial poverty or long-term unemployment in the family, while stressful adversity includes death of a parent, divorce or alcohol/drug abuse among the parents.
The findings showed that 54 per cent of the children in group one experienced no or only very few isolated incidents of adversity in childhood.
In group two to four, 43 per cent of the children experienced isolated incidents of adversity in childhood, mainly related to poverty or illness in the family. Here the researchers found a mortality rate in early adulthood that is 1.3-1.8 times higher than in group one.
The study revealed that three per cent in group five experienced great social and stressful adversity throughout childhood. In this group, the mortality rate is 4.5 times higher than in group one.
According to the team, the study is the first of its kind on a global basis.
“The size of the study has made it possible for the researchers to study the associations between incidents of social and stressful adversity throughout childhood and how it affects mortality rates among young adults,” the study authors wrote.