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David Baxter

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Effects of childhood abuse last a lifetime
January 25, 2008

Child abuse survivors are almost two and a half times as likely to have poor mental health outcomes and four times more likely to be unhappy even in much later life, according to new research from University of New South Wales (UNSW), Australia.

And in a surprise finding that requires further research, the work also reveals that child abuse survivors are more likely to get a tertiary education.

The study - the largest of its kind into the long-term effects of physical and sexual abuse - assessed 21,000 participants aged over 60 from five Australian states. The results are published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Poor physical health is another outcome, the study has found. Childhood physical and sexual abuse increases the risk of having three or more medical diseases, including cardiovascular events in women.

Behavioral health effects include suicidal behavior, increased likelihood of smoking, substance abuse, and physical inactivity.

The news is not good in terms of social indicators, either. The research shows a higher prevalence of broken relationships, lower rates of marriage in late life, lower levels of social support, and a slightly increased likelihood of living alone.

"We found that the number of people reporting childhood abuse declined in older groups," said the lead author, Associate Professor Brian Draper from UNSW's School of Psychiatry. "This could mean that those who were the victim of childhood abuse are at increased risk of early death. It is also possible that childhood abuse was less prevalent in the older cohorts."

"The effects of childhood abuse appear to last a lifetime, although maturation through life experience may ameliorate its effects in some individuals who are more resilient and cope better under stress," the authors concluded.

Source: Draper B, Pfaff JJ, Pirkis J, et al. Long-Term Effects of Childhood Abuse on the Quality of Life and Health of Older People: Results from the Depression and Early Prevention of Suicide in General Practice Project. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2008; doi:10.1111/j.1532-5415.2007.01537.x [Abstract]
 

Garrett

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Re: Effects of childhood abuse last a lifetime

I believe every bit of that. I would have liked to have seen the victims results in a more positive light though. It wasn't until the end of the article that the authors even touched on it.

It's hard to imagine every sexual abuse case not being a success story. I've been through it myself. Does that make my condition any better or any worse than someone else? Environment plays a big role. Income levels of family. Access to medical care. How one handles him or herself under less than ideal or stressful situations. Education. length of abuse. Severity of abuse. Support during childhood, through adulthood and into senior years.

In my case, I've been fortunate to have a loving and caring (understanding) wife. Without her I would surly no longer be alive. She has been my hope. My salvation. My strength. My strength to carry on. Am I suppressing past thoughts and feelings? Maybe. Could they come back? I'm almost sure of it. She keeps me grounded in a world of the unknown. A scary dark world.

For the time being I'm safe. I have my wife. I fear what it would be like without her. I've grown dependent on her. In some ways I've matured. In other ways I haven't. I'm afraid I never will. All because of child abuse? Maybe. In the end, does it really matter?
 

David Baxter

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I agree, Garrett.

Various other conditions may last a lifetime, too, e.g., some anxiety disorders, OCD, etc., but that doesn't mean that quality of life cannot inprove nor that the symptoms cannot be managed.
 

Garrett

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I agree, Garrett.

Various other conditions may last a lifetime, too, e.g., some anxiety disorders, OCD, etc., but that doesn't mean that quality of life cannot inprove nor that the symptoms cannot be managed.

I just wish I could manage on my own. I'm sure I could if I had to. I did before I got married, but I was on a destructive path. Who's to say where it would go today or in the future. It's one day at a time.....always has been.
 

ladylore

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In my early 20's I would see people who were in their forties just starting to deal with things in their past as it started wrecking havoc during this period in their lives. Unfortuately, I was under the assumption that as you got older things got eaiser, memories faded and the effects of childhood abuse went away.

I was wrong - my memory of past events is stronger and memories from my past abuse contined to get stronger until I did something about it and got help.

I agree David that if symptoms can be managed - but as I am in my late 30's now I see the damage clearer and I need reminders (sometimes constant) that my past could be effecting a present situation and deal with things from that angle.
 

David Baxter

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FWIW, I found my late 30s and early 40s were the time I resolved some of my biggest personal issues. You're just on the brink of peace, ladylore. :)
 

braveheart

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I'm in my late 30s and am really starting to really resolve the consequences of the abuse I suffered from a child into my teens.
I'm not sure I'll ever have a relationship, but it's something we talk about often in therapy.
I don't smoke or drink [abusive rows between my parents where drink was part of the causative factor, and red wine seeping across the table from a knocked over glass certainly had a strong protective effect on that one. I've never touched alcohol.] and have never substance abused. But I spent a long time living alone and in self-destructive self belief and so forth, and self harming. But I'm gradually recovering from all that now.
 

Halo

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Okay...not feeling very optimistic. I am only in my early 30s and thinking that I may have a long way to go!!!!
 

stargazer

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Well, I'm in my 50's, and I for whatever it's worth, I feel that during the past three or four years I have only begun to address my real issues at all. And at least half of that time has been spent freaking out over them.

This of course is highly subjective, but I think that the very high dosage of clonazepam that I was on for so many years had an effect of stunting my growth, so to speak. I remember it being really impossible for me to get in touch with my feelings, or experience life with any normal degree of sensitivity.

Then, when I got off of it, it was as though I suddenly became hugely over-sensitized. Also, the very day I finally ran out of it was the very day I first became homeless, so suddenly there was all kinds of strange new stuff for me to process.

All that said, I am optimistic. I feel healthier than I used to feel. I even feel healthier than I did a month ago, when I was under all that work stress. There's hope. I just gotta continue to take long contemplative walks at night and slowly put all the pieces together.

I'm just glad I'm not on the clonazepam any longer. I never thought I'd ever get off of it, and it will be four years this May 10th.
 

Mike902

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I sometimes wonder if the abuse I went through had been my fault.
With my Mom, it was after her and Dad divorced. She got really physical and emotionally abusive towards me. If I did not end up moving to live with Dad at 6, I never would have seen 7, she told me.

From 6 till I was 10, I had been sexually abused by teacher aids and a camp counselor. The last one was worse, and I had a friend who was also abused by the guy at the same time. He was horrible, and I still have nightmares about it.
 

ladylore

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Abuse is never the child's fault Mike. You didn't do anything to cause it and you didn't derserve it.
 

Mike902

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I had always wondered why Mom did that. She had said during the abuse that I asked for it. That I acted like Dad, and that she had to make me stop.

During the later abuse, I dont know why I never said anything to anyone about it. It's like I wanted to hide it, even though I never really knew why.
 
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i am glad you talked about it. the immediate reaction is to hide it but unfortunately that means you are alone with what you are going through. you did the right thing :goodjob:
 

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