"Studies have shown that children who were neglected emotionally in childhood are at an increased risk of a slew of psychiatric disorders. However, our study is one of few that looked at an association between emotional neglect and stroke," said study author Robert S. Wilson, PhD, a neuropsychologist at Rush.Researchers’ selected 1,040 participants aged 55+ without dementia from the Memory and Aging Project were surveyed on physical and emotional abuse before the age of 18. Participants were questioned on such areas as how much love they felt from their parents or caregivers as children, whether they felt afraid or intimidated by their caregivers, the method of physical punishment suffered and other questions relating to divorce and family finances.
The participants were followed over a period of 3.5 years. In that time, 257 participants had died. Of the deceased participants, only 192 had brain autopsies, which revealed that 89 of them had experienced strokes. Furthermore, forty of the participants were said to have had strokes based on medical history or an examination.
Furthermore, participants that expressed moderately high levels of emotional neglect in childhood were nearly 3 times more likely to experience a stroke than those reporting moderately low levels of emotional childhood neglect, even when other factors such as diabetes, physical activity, smoking, anxiety and heart problems were controlled.
"The results add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that early life factors such as traumatic childhood experiences influence the development of physical illness and common chronic conditions of old age" says Dr. David A. Bennett, director of the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center and co-author of the studyOf course results may not be completely reliable since this study relies on a self-report of recalled events many years later, which may be even further clouded given the nature of the potentially traumatic memories.
Emotional Neglect in Children Linked to Increased Stroke Risk Later in Life