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15-11-2011 | Psychology | Article

Childhood aggression linked to medical service uptake in adulthood

Abstract

Free abstract

MedWire News: Individuals who have a history of childhood aggression are at risk for health-related medical incidents later in life, suggest study findings.

"Our results add to the literature that suggests the people at greatest risk of poor health in adulthood, as characterized by multiple negative predictors of long-term outcome, might be identified in early childhood," say Caroline Temcheff (Sherbrooke University, Quebec, Canada) and colleagues.

The researchers identified 3913 individuals who participated in the Concordia Longitudinal Risk Project and had received medical care in the province of Quebec between 1992 and 2006. Participants were aged 39.2 years on average in 2006. The primary outcome of the study was use of the healthcare system after controlling for socioeconomic status and level of education.

Analysis of the relation between behavior during childhood (1976-1978) and physical health during adulthood (1992-2006) revealed that every increase of one standard deviation (SD) from the mean in childhood aggression corresponded to 1.0 more visits for lifestyle-related illnesses (44.2% increase); 1.0 more visits to dentists (23.5% increase); 4.8 more visits to emergency departments (12.4% increase); 0.2 more admissions to hospital (10.9% increase); 1.3 more visits due to injuries (10.7% increase); 7.2 more medical visits (8.1% increase); and 2.7 more visits to specialists (6.2% increase).

A positive correlation between social withdrawal during childhood and number of dental visits was seen (14.6% increase), although negative correlations were seen between peer-rated likeability during childhood and overall use of medical services (3.6% decrease), number of medical visits due to injuries (9.0% decrease), and number of dental visits (11.2% decrease).

The researchers also found that childhood likeability negatively predicted overall use of medical services, number of medical visits due to injuries, and the number of government-funded dental visits.

Childhood aggression was positively predictive for use of gynecologic services in younger women only (aged 18-21 years), where an increase of one SD in aggression corresponded to 0.5 more obstetric and gynecologic visits over a 5-year period, representing a 5.87% increase.

Level of education showed consistently negative correlations with overall use of medical services (10.0% decrease), with each increase of one SD corresponding to 2.0 fewer obstetric and gynecologic visits (25.8% decrease) among younger, but not older women.

"Addressing problematic childhood behavior and teaching appropriate ways of interacting, self-care and coping strategies to vulnerable children will probably require early preventive intervention to mitigate long-term risks to health," say the researchers in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

By Ingrid Grasmo

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