Study shows adult-onset asthma higher among women abused as children
A recent study found that African-American women who reported suffering abuse before age 11 had a greater likelihood of adult-onset asthma compared to women whose childhood and adolescence were free of abuse.
The study followed 28,456 African-American women, all participants in the Black Women’s Health Study, between 1995-2011. They completed health questionnaires and provided information on physical and sexual abuse during childhood up to age 11 and adolescence, ages 12 to 18. The results show the incidence of adult-onset asthma increased by more than 20 percent among women who had been abused during childhood. The evidence was stronger for physical abuse than for sexual abuse.
“This is the first study to show an association between childhood abuse and adult-onset asthma,” says Patricia Coogan, lead epidemiologist on the study. “The results suggest chronic stress contributes to asthma onset, even years later.” Researchers believe the link between childhood abuse and asthma incidence is stress and its physiological consequences, including effects on the immune system and airway development.
In 2010, approximately 695,000 children aged 0 to 17 neglected or abused, according to the United States Department of Health and Human Service’s National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, and 22 percent of neglected or abused children were African American. National statistics show asthma is more prevalent in African Americans.
“Given the high prevalence of asthma and childhood abuse in the United States,” Coogan says, “the association is of significant public health importance.”