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Association between childhood trauma and physical disorders among adults in the United States

  • RENEE D. GOODWIN (a1) and MURRAY B. STEIN (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 April 2004

Background. The goal of this investigation was to determine the association between self-reported childhood trauma and physical disorders among adults in the United States.

Method. Data were drawn from the National Comorbidity Survey (N=S877). Multiple logistic regression analyses were used to determine the associations between childhood physical abuse, sexual abuse, and childhood neglect and the likelihood of specific physical disorders among adults.

Results. Childhood physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect were associated with a statistically significantly increased risk of a wide range of physical illnesses during adulthood. After adjusting for demographic characteristics, lifetime anxiety and depressive disorders, alcohol and substance dependence, and all types of trauma: results showed that childhood physical abuse was associated with increased risk of lung disease (OR=1·5 (1·1, 2·2)), peptic ulcer (OR=1·5 (1·03, 2·2)) and arthritic disorders (OR=1·5 (1·1, 2·2)); childhood sexual abuse was associated with increased risk of cardiac disease (OR=3·7 (1·5, 9·4)); and childhood neglect was associated with increased risk of diabetes (OR=2·2 (1·1, 4·4)) and autoimmune disorders (OR=4·4 (1·7, 11·6)).

Conclusions. Consistent with previous work, these results suggest that self-reported childhood trauma is associated with increased risk of a range of physical illnesses during adulthood. Future research that includes replication of these findings using prospectively assessed physical and mental disorders with objectively measured biological data using a longitudinal design, including other known risk factors for these diseases and more detailed information on specific forms of abuse, is needed to understand the potential mechanisms of these links.

Corresponding author
Dr Renee D. Goodwin, 1051 Riverside Drive, Unit 43, New York, NY 10032, USA. (Email:
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Psychological Medicine
  • ISSN: 0033-2917
  • EISSN: 1469-8978
  • URL: /core/journals/psychological-medicine
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