Early Sexual Abuse Heart Risks – A recent study revealed that early sexual abuse for girls has been linked to heart risks. The research was conducted by Adverse Childhood Experiences, an ongoing collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente, a large nonprofit health plan.
More than 17,000 members of Kaiser who received a physical exam between 1995 and 1997 agreed to be part of the study. They voluntarily provided information about their childhood experiences with respect to abuse, neglect and family dysfunction.
For each participant in the study, an ACE score was assigned based on the number of adverse childhood experiences reported.
The study then looked at how adverse childhood experiences were linked to later health and behavior. The findings showed that having adverse experiences as a child were predictive of illness and a lower quality of life. As the ACE score increased, so did the likelihood of a variety of health problems.
According to the CDC, these problems include “alcoholism and alcohol abuse, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), depression, fetal death, health-related quality of life, illicit drug use, ischemic heart disease (IHD), liver disease, risk for intimate partner violence, multiple sexual partners, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), smoking, suicide attempts, unintended pregnancies, early initiation of smoking, early initiation of sexual activity, adolescent pregnancy.” Phew!
The ACE study uses a pyramid to explain the progression from adverse childhood experiences to early death. At the bottom of the pyramid is the stress from experiences in childhood. That stress affects the development of the brain, which impairs social, emotional and cognitive development. Those impairments in development lead to risky behaviors with respect to health, which in turn lead to disease, disability and a variety of social problems. Early death is at the top of the pyramid.
The study also showed how surprisingly common adverse childhood experiences were among the study participants. For example, more than 28 percent reported physical abuse and almost 27 percent said they grew up in a household in which there was substance abuse. Twenty-six percent had one adverse childhood experience, and 12.5 percent had four or more. On the positive side, 36 percent of the participants reported no adverse childhood experiences at all.