The aim of this study is to examine the long-term association between childhood sexual abuse (CSA) and mental and physical health, especially with conditions related to hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis dysfunction such as mood disorders, cardiovascular disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, pain disorders, and measures of frailty and functional mobility. In addition, we examined the impact of CSA on self-reported health and healthcare utilization.
Data from the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing were employed (N = 8,178). The effects of CSA on mental health, physical health, and healthcare utilization in old age population were estimated by ordinal least square, logistic regression, and Poisson regression, controlling for demographic factors, childhood adversities, and behavioral health.
Six percent of respondents reported CSA with little variation by gender. A significant association was found between CSA and mental health. Those who reported CSA were more likely to have depression, anxiety, worry, loneliness, and low quality of life. Poor self-reported health, lung disease, arthritis, peptic ulcer, chronic pain as well as high levels of total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein were associated with CSA. Further, those who reported CSA were more likely to report doctor and hospital visits than those without a history of CSA.
Findings from the present study show that CSA has significant long-term mental and physical consequences, whereby early life events are linked to later life health outcomes.
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