Researchers believe a troubled childhood can lead to an increased risk of liver disease. Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis is one of the 10 leading causes of death in the United States. Drug use and high-risk sexual activity are common causes of hepatitis. Alcohol abuse and hepatitis are both causes of liver disease. Researchers theorized abuse or neglect during childhood would lead to risky behavior in adulthood and therefore, increase the risk of liver disease.
Researchers surveyed more than 17,000 people about abuse, neglect, or household dysfunction such as divorce or domestic violence during childhood. Overall, nearly 7 percent of patients reported liver disease. Researchers say, "An increased likelihood of reporting liver disease for each of 10 adverse childhood experiences was observed."
The prevalence of liver disease was more than seven-times higher for people who were alcoholic or injection drug users. The risk for liver disease was also 1.6-times higher in those who reported risky sexual behavior. According to researchers, "Persons with a history of alcoholism as well as injection drug use had more than 10-times greater likelihood of liver disease than persons without such a history."
Researchers believe this is the first study of its kind and say understanding the chain of events that eventually lead to liver disease may one day lead them to better methods of intervention.