Childhood Adversities and Adult Cardiometabolic Health

Does the Quantity, Timing, and Type of Adversity Matter?

Published in: Journal of Aging and Health, v. 27, no. 8, 2015, p. 1311-1338

Posted on RAND.org on May 14, 2015

by Esther M. Friedman, Jennifer Karas Montez, Connor McDevitt Sheehan, Tara L. Gruenewald, Teresa E. Seeman

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OBJECTIVE: Adverse events in childhood can indelibly influence adult health. While evidence for this association has mounted, a fundamental set of questions about how to operationalize adverse events has been understudied. METHOD: We used data from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States to examine how quantity, timing, and types of adverse events in childhood are associated with adult cardiometabolic health. RESULTS: The best-fitting specification of quantity of events was a linear measure reflecting a dose–response relationship. Timing of event mattered less than repeated exposure to events. Regarding the type of event, academic interruptions and sexual/physical abuse were most important. Adverse childhood events elevated the risk of diabetes and obesity similarly for men and women but had a greater impact on women's risk of heart disease. DISCUSSION: Findings demonstrate the insights that can be gleaned about the early-life origins of adult health by examining operationalization of childhood exposures.

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