Childhood Trauma Linked to COPD Development Later in Life


There is a correlation between adverse childhood experiences (ACE) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease () development, with a more pronounced association in women, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers found.  

In study results published in International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, researchers examined the data of 26,546 women and 19,015 men in MN, MT, VT, WA, and WI. Occurrences of childhood abuse, household dysfunction, COPD diagnoses were recorded in addition to age, gender, race, marital status, education, and smoking status.

From their analysis, the investigators noted 12.7 percent and 4.4 percent of respondents were diagnosed with asthma and COPD, respectively. Overall, 63.1 percent of participants claimed they experienced one ACE prior to age 18.

Specifically, the writers discovered that “men were significantly (P<0.05) more likely to report childhood verbal abuse,” while “women were significantly (P<0.05) more likely to report childhood sexual abuse; living with a substance  abusing household member; living with a mentally ill  household member; and to report 5 or more ACEs compared to men.”

Weighing the prevalence of ACEs and COPD diagnoses among their patients, the authors found women who experienced an ACE were significantly more likely (P<0.05) to have COPD than women who didn’t. While the male sample had a higher rate of COPD development (P<0.05), the link between COPD and ACEs wasn’t as strong.

“For women who were never smokers, there was still a higher likelihood of COPD associated with physical abuse (PR=1.81, 95% CI: 1.28, 2.58), sexual abuse (PR=2.18, 95% CI: 1.46, 3.24), and living with a substance abusing household member during childhood (PR=1.70, 95% CI: 1.18, 2.43),” the investigators wrote.

While ACEs have been tied to other chronic conditions such as depression, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and stroke, research on their relationship to COPD is limited. From their research, the investigators claimed while they have shown an association between COPD, ACEs, and gender, the mechanism behind the trend cannot be ascertained from their study alone.

“Programs and policies that address the underlying problems caused by experiences of childhood maltreatment and household dysfunction may prove more effective than traditional smoking prevention and cessation strategies alone,” the writers penned. “Further research examining sex differences in the relationship between ACEs and chronic diseases in adulthood is warranted.”

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