A new study found that people with supportive relationships during their middle age can counteract adverse health risks associated with childhood abuse.
Researchers revealed that survivors of severe physical abuse were 19 percent less likely to die during the study if they had close relationships while survivors of moderate physical abuse were 12 percent less likely to die. Survivors of emotional abuse had an 11 percent lower risk of premature death, the study found.
“This is one of the first studies to provide evidence suggesting that experiences long after exposure to abuse can mitigate the mortality risks associated with early abuse,” said Jessica Chiang, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University in the US.
Chiang notes that victims of childhood abuse are not forced on a path towards poor mental and physical health in adulthood. According to her, this path is “malleable” as long as the people have strong social support in adulthood. This aspect can reverse the effects even decades after exposure to childhood abuse, she claims.
Most of the diseases linked to childhood abuse generally surface in the middle and later stages of adulthood, even decades after the abuse occurred, Chiang said.
The study was not a controlled experiment and didn’t focus on the closeness between to persons that would allow for the reversal to kick in. Researchers thus acknowledged that some people may cope better than others in that they can overcome abuse during childhood.
To reach this conclusion, Chiang and her team examined more than 6 thousand adults in the US who self-reported social support, something which was then put in contrast with each participant’s mortality risk. This correlation was then filtered through three types of childhood abuse: severe physical abuse, modest physical abuse, and emotional abuse.
The study was published in the journal, Nature Human Behaviour.
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