MAR 10, 2024 12:11 PM PDT

Adverse Childhood Experiences Linked to Adult Psychiatric Disorders

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Adverse childhood experiences (ACE's) are linked to an increased incidence of psychiatric disorders in adulthood. The corresponding study was published in JAMA Psychiatry

Previous research indicates that exposure to ACE's is linked to negative mental health outcomes in adulthood. As ACEs and psychiatric disorders cluster in families, however, it remains relatively less known to what extent familial confounding contributes to links between ACEs and clinically confirmed adult psychiatric disorders. 

In the present study, researchers explored this topic by analyzing data collected from twins raised in the same household with different experiences of abuse. Examining twins in this way allowed the researchers to assess how much increased risk for psychiatric disorders was attributable to ACE's and how much to genetic and environmental factors. 

For the study, the researchers analyzed Swedish healthcare data from 25, 252 adult twins aged between 18 and 47 years old. Data included questionnaire responses detailing ACEs, including family violence, emotional abuse or neglect, physical neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, rape, and hate crime. The researchers also included data on participants' clinical diagnoses of psychiatric disorders, including depression, anxiety, stress-related disorders, and alcohol or drug misuse. 

Altogether, they found that 9, 751 individuals, or 38.6% of the cohort, reported at least one ACE. After analyzing the data, they found that more ACEs correlated with an increased likelihood of any psychiatric disorder. They additionally found that individuals exposed to sexual abuse had an increased likelihood of any clinically confirmed psychiatric disorder when compared to those who had no exposure. 

"Now we can show that the increased risk of mental health problems after adverse childhood experiences can be partly explained by factors shared by family members, such as genetic factors or factors in the childhood environment," said first author of the study, Hilda Björk Daníelsdóttir, a doctoral student at the University of Iceland and visiting doctoral student at the Institute of Environmental Medicine at Karolinska Institutet, in a press release

"I hope that our study can raise awareness of childhood circumstances as possible causes of psychiatric disorders in adulthood and how to best address them,' she concluded. 


Sources: Neuroscience NewsJAMA Psychiatry

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets.
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