Posted on Aug 29, 2011, 6 a.m.
The risk of coronary heart disease in middle age is moderately higher for men and women who grew up in adverse family settings, suggesting that early family psychosocial environment influences the future onset of chronic diseases.
While it is generally recognized that the early family psychosocial environment influences the mental health of children, less is known about the role of that setting in future, adulthood chronic diseases. Eric Loucks, from Brown University (Rhode Island, USA), and colleagues analyzed the health records and childhood descriptions of 3,554 adults, finding an association between certain kinds of childhood mistreatment and a moderately elevated risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) in middle age. Specifically, for every extra point a study participant registered on a 21-point “risky family score,” their risk of CHD between the ages of 40 and 50 rose 1%. For instance, if one man had a childhood that was 5 points worse on the scale than the average man in the study, his CHD risk over the next 10 years would be 5.36%, compared to the average man’s 5.1% risk. Men and women who had higher risky family scores had higher CHD risk than people who had lower risky family scores but were similar otherwise. For example, women in the lowest risky family quartile had a 10-year CHD risk of 1.6%, while women in the highest quartile had a CHD risk of 1.8%. For men, the difference between the lowest quartile and the highest was 4.8% vs. 5.5%. The team also drilled into the numbers to see which aspects of upbringing had significant effects and again found gender differences. Among women, CHD score was most affected by physical abuse, verbal mistreatment, poor parental monitoring and poor household organization and management. For men, abuse didn’t matter as much as neglect, in that only the latter two conditions (poor monitoring and organization) mattered to CHD risk. Acknowledging other current cardiovascular disease research seeking to early life determinants of heart disease, the researchers conclude that: “Childhood family psychosocial environment was positively associated with the calculated 10-year [coronary heart disease] risk.”
Eric B. Loucks, Nisha D. Almeida, Shelley E. Taylor, Karen A. Matthews. “Childhood Family Psychosocial Environment and Coronary Heart Disease Risk.” Psychosom Med., August 2, 2011.