Abused or neglected children more likely to die in middle age

A study by researchers at the University of Cambridge has warned that children who experience sexual or physical abuse or are neglected are at greater risk of premature death as adults. Neglect is a form of abuse as it deprives children of their basic needs, such as adequate food, clothing, hygiene, or supervision.

Child sexual abuse

The study, which analysed data from the 1950s to the present, found that adults who had experienced sexual abuse by the age of 16 had a 2.6 times higher risk of dying in middle age (between 45 and 58) than those who did not report sexual abuse. On the other hand, adults who reported experiencing physical abuse by the age of 16 had a 1.7 times higher risk of premature death, while the risk was 1.4 times higher for those who experienced neglect during childhood.

Early-life socioeconomic disadvantage is also associated with early death. In the study, the researchers found that those who were disadvantaged at birth (whose parents' job was classed as unskilled manual labour) had a 1.9 times higher risk of premature mortality than other socioeconomic groups. The study results were published in BMJ Open.

The findings are especially important because these early-life adversities are common.

Child abuse is found everywhere, impacting the lives of millions of children all over the world. Childhood deprivation is more common in poorer countries while children in more developed countries are also abused in other ways.

As reported by Science Daily, the Crime Survey for England and Wales reported that in 2019 one in five adults experienced at least one form of child abuse, whether psychological abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or witnessing domestic violence or abuse, before the age of 16 years .

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