Victimization in childhood: General and specific associations with physical health problems in young adulthood


Objective: The goal of the current study was to examine the direct relationship between diverse types of childhood victimization and physical health problems in early adulthood, controlling for other common factors that contribute to physical health problems, including psychopathology and health risk behaviors. The associations between types of victimization (e.g., physical assault) and specific health problems (e.g., pain) were also examined. Methods: 2500 Swedish young adults reported on their exposure to victimization in childhood and their current mental and physical health as adults. Results: Using multiple regression, results indicated that the amount of childhood victimization was a significant predictor of health problems in adulthood, controlling for the significant negative effects of health risk behaviors and mental health problems on physical health. Logistic regressions indicated that physical assaults and sexual abuse were associated with all types of health problems assessed. Sleep problems were associated with almost all types of victimization history. Conclusions: The long-term effects of childhood victimization on physical health in adulthood are serious and warrant significant attention. Primary care providers should include assessments of past victimization as one way of screening for health risk. Health providers should also consider multiple points of intervention that may help to reduce physical illness. For example, providing a mental health intervention or social service support related to victimization experiences may not only address these difficulties, but also more broadly impact physical health as well.

Publication Title

Journal of Psychosomatic Research