People who experience sexual or physical abuse during childhood may have poor mental and physical health outcomes in old age.

The trauma associated with child abuse can have effects that can last all through oneís life. Itís been found that individuals with a history of abuse are more likely to be smokers, while those who drink excessively are more likely to have been abused. As compared to men, women who have been abused as children are at greater risk of cardiovascular disease.

To assess the effects of child abuse, researchers at the University of New South Wales in Sydney studied 21,000 men and women, aged 60 and older, who were participating in a suicide prevention study. Of these, 6.7 percent reported having been physically abused as children, while 6.5 reported sexual abuse.

The results showed that men and women who reported either type of abuse were 35 percent more likely to be in poor physical health and at 89 percent greater risk of poor mental health than their peers with no history of abuse. People who had been both physically and sexually abused were 60 percent more likely to be in poor physical health and 2.4 times as likely to be in poor mental health. Main outcome measures targeted the participantís current physical and mental health.

Thus, the effects of childhood abuse appear to last a lifetime. Further research is required to improve understanding of the pathways that lead to such deleterious outcomes and ways to minimize its late-life effects.