Adults with neurologic problems are more likely than the general population to have had negative childhood experiences such as abuse, neglect, or household dysfunction, according to a new study.
The study, which was published in the online issue of Neurology® Clinical Practise, an official journal of the American Academy of Neurology, on September 22, 2021, does not establish that such experiences cause neurologic problems. It just demonstrates a link between the two. “Traumatic events in childhood have been linked in previous studies to a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, riskier health behaviours like smoking and drug use, and decreased life expectancy,” said study author Adys Mendizabal MD, of the University of California Los Angeles and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.
“They have also been linked to a higher risk of headaches, but for many other neurologic conditions, little is known. Our study found that people with neurologic conditions like stroke, headache, and epilepsy were more likely to have experienced abuse, neglect, or household dysfunction as children when compared to the U.S. population.”
People with adverse childhood experiences may have more neurologic symptoms, disability, or greater medical needs
The research included 198 patients from a neurology clinic. Each participant filled out a questionnaire on their bad childhood experiences and was tested for anxiety and depression. Researchers also examined medical records to see how frequently study participants attended an emergency room, were hospitalized, or called their clinic. The questionnaire received scores ranging from 0 to 10. Scores of four or higher were regarded as excellent.
The prevalence of high scores in the study group of patients with neurologic disorders was compared to the expected prevalence in the US population. They discovered that 24% of those in the study group had elevated scores, compared to 13% of the overall population. After controlling for age, gender, and race/ethnicity, researchers discovered that study participants with high questionnaire scores used healthcare services more frequently.
They were 21 times more likely than low-scoring participants to have used emergency department services often, with four or more visits in the previous year. They were five times more likely to have been hospitalized at least three times in the previous year. They were also three times more likely to have called their clinic 15 times or more in the previous year. According to Mendizabal, these findings imply that persons who had many unpleasant childhood events may have higher neurologic symptoms, disability, or medical demands.
Adverse childhood experiences may also lead to additional medical and psychiatric conditions
Participants with high scores were six times more likely to have an additional medical disease and five times more likely to have a psychological disorder in addition to their neurologic condition. They were also seven times more likely to have high levels of despair and four times more likely to have high levels of anxiety.
“Early recognition of these high adverse childhood experiences in people with neurologic conditions may be a way to improve their health,” said Mendizabal. “Appropriate referral to social work and behavioural health resources may provide people with support that may reduce their need for health care and improve their neurologic health.”
Materials provided by the American Academy of Neurology. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Adys Mendizabal, Cody L Nathan, Pouya Khankhanian, Marissa Anto, Cynthia Clyburn, Alexandra Acaba-Berrocal, Louise Breen, Nabila Dahodwala. Adverse Childhood Experiences in Patients With Neurologic Disease. Neurology: Clinical Practice, 2021; 10.1212/CPJ.0000000000001134 DOI: 10.1212/CPJ.0000000000001134
American Academy of Neurology. “Adults with neurologic conditions more likely to have experienced childhood trauma.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 September 2021. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/09/210922160651.htm>.
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