Exposure to adverse life events as a child can impact your physical and mental well being, study says

Exposure to adverse circumstances early in life slowly impacts one’s physical and mental well being in adult life.Recent studies have the evidence.
impact of trauma on brain
Did you know? Individuals who experience childhood trauma go on to experience mental struggles as an adult. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock
PTI Updated: 11 May 2021, 04:11 am IST
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If very early in life some of us experience tragic events, it impacts the way we may perceive the world. While left to deal with the tough cards to play, recent studies show that events such as poverty, bereavement or violence slowly show its impact on one’s well being later in life.

People who experience the greatest levels of hardship, stress and personal loss are more likely to have a lower quality of life, with significantly more health and physical difficulties in later life, according to a study.

The study, published in the Journal of Public Health, shows how a range of life inequalities and hardships are linked to physical and mental health inequalities in later life.

These stressful and often heart-breaking life inequalities included having emotionally cold parents, poor educational opportunities, losing an unborn child, financial hardship, involvement in conflict, violence and experiencing a natural disaster.

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The researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK found that those brought up by an emotionally cold mother were also significantly less likely to experience a good quality of life and more likely to experience problems in later life such as anxiety, psychiatric problems and social detachment.

How does early exposure to inequality impact individuals?
The researchers said that policies aimed at reducing inequalities in older age should consider events across the life course.

“Everybody lives a unique life that is shaped by events, experiences and their environment,” said Professor Nick Steel, form UEA’s Norwich Medical School.

“We know that inequalities in exposure to different events over a lifetime are associated with inequalities in health trajectories, particularly when it comes to events in childhood such as poverty, bereavement or exposure to violence,” Steel said.

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PERSONALISE NOW
adverse life events
Exposure to adverse events impacts one’s adult physical and mental life massively.
Image courtesy: Shutterstock

The research team studied data taken from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) — a longitudinal study of adults over 50 living in England.

Participants were invited to answer a life history questionnaire. The research team took into account responses from 7,555 participants to questions that represented broad topics in life history.

Some of these questions were around their upbringing – such as whether a parent had been emotionally cold and the estimated number of books in their home at 10 years old.

Other questions focused on events in adult life — such as whether they had fought in a war or lost an unborn child.

The researchers analysed the responses to identify patterns of life events, and also took into account factors such as age, ethnicity, sex and socioeconomic status.

“We looked at the life history of each participant and compared it to their quality of life and how well they can perform activities like dressing themselves, bathing, preparing hot meals, doing gardening and money management,” said lead researcher Oby Enwo, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School.

The correlation between life events and mental well being
The researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK found that those brought up by an emotionally cold mother were also significantly less likely to experience a good quality of life and more likely to experience problems in later life such as anxiety, psychiatric problems and social detachment.

“We also studied whether the participants had a long-standing illness, or suffered from anxiety or depression or other psychiatric problems like schizophrenia and psychosis,” said Enwo.

The researchers saw some really strong patterns and associations emerging between exposure to life events that affect physical and mental well-being in later life, Enwo said.

They grouped the participants into four main groups — those who reported few life events, those with an emotionally cold mother, those who had experienced violence in combat and those who had experienced a number of difficult life events.

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The team found that people who had suffered many difficult life events were significantly less likely to experience a good quality of life than those who had lived easier lives.

They were three times more likely to suffer psychiatric problems, twice as likely to be detached from social networks, and twice as likely to have a long-standing illness, according to the researchers

While you go on to experience life if you do notice any disturbing symptoms disrupting your quality of life, kindly feel encouraged to confide in an expert and share your internal struggle. Your courageous act of finding a safe space to express shall slowly lead you to a better quality of life.  

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