A new study has found a link between certain kinds of childhood mistreatment and a moderately elevated risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) in middle age.
To come to the conclusion Brown University researchers analysed health records and childhood descriptions of 3,554 adults.
"We often think about how the early family psychosocial environment influences the mental health of kids," said Eric Loucks, assistant professor of epidemiology in the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.
"The fact that it may be important for chronic diseases, like heart disease, hasn't been thought of as much.
"That's what this paper found. That early life family psychosocial environment had a small but significant association with 10-year risk for coronary heart disease," stated Loucks.
Men and women who had higher risky family scores had higher CHD risk than people who had lower risky family scores but were similar otherwise.
Among women, CHD score was most affected by physical abuse, verbal mistreatment, poor parental monitoring and poor household organization and management.
For men, abuse didn't matter as much as neglect, in that only the latter two conditions (poor monitoring and organization) mattered to CHD risk.
The CHD risk factors most strongly correlated with risky family score were smoking for men, and smoking and HDL cholesterol for women.
"One of the big drivers was smoking. Think of a kid whose parents aren't monitoring him so much. That could quite easily allow him to try smoking. Smoking is highly addictive, and so can easily continue into adulthood. Smoking is one of the major risk factors for heart disease," Loucks said.
The research was published July 22 in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.