Middle-aged women who were physically or sexually abused in their childhood spend more money on health care services than non-abused women, says a new study.
The study, led by Amy Bonomi, associate professor of human development and family science at Ohio State University, was based on the review of more than 3,000 women.
"What's remarkable is that women with an average age in their late 40s still suffer consequences from abuse that occurred decades ago," said Bonomi.
The research examined data from 3,333 women who belonged to Group Health, a health care system in the Pacific Northwest.
In the study the factors taken into account were - age and education that also can affect health care use.
The analysis found that women who had suffered both physical and sexual abuse had higher health service use in six areas: mental health, hospital outpatient, emergency department visits, primary care, specialty care, and pharmacy fills.
Those who were only physically abused or only sexually abused had higher use in four of the health service areas.
The study found that the women with no history of abuse spent an average of 2,413 dollars a year on health care costs. Women who were sexually abused only paid an average of 382 dollars a year more, those who were physically abused spent 502 dollars more, and women who suffered both types of abuse spent 790 dollars a year in additional health care costs.
"We are able to say pretty confidently that it was the abuse itself that is driving higher health care use and costs in these women," said Bonomi.
After accounting for women's age and education, women who were sexually abused as children faced health care costs 16 percent higher than non-abused women, while physically abused women's costs were 22 percent higher. For women who suffered both types of abuse, costs rose 36 percent above average.
Bonomi said the results reinforce the need for abuse prevention programs that target parents of young children who are at risk of child abuse. Soon-to-be parents should also receive attention.
Additionally, the findings suggest that health care professionals should screen adults for child abuse history, particularly people with high levels of health care service use.
The study is published online in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.