Children who suffer abuse or other trauma at home are four times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes when they grow up, a Welsh report states.
The study, conducted by Public Health Wales, found that children who experienced four or more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) were also twice as likely to be diagnosed with a chronic disease and three times more likely to develop heart disease in later life compared to children who experienced none.
Responding to the report, Wales future generations commission Sophie Howe highlighted the need for public services to work together in improving care for children.
“This new evidence from Public Health Wales emphasises the importance of focusing on early years and reducing the number of children living in families where there is domestic abuse, mental health problems, substance misuse or other forms of abuse or neglect,” she said.
“If we don’t tackle this we are storing up long-term health and social problems for these children and our public services further down the line.”
The nationwide review involved more than 2,000 adults aged 18-69, all of whom provided anonymous information on how many ACEs they endured before the age of 18. They also disclosed their health and lifestyles as an adult.
Lead report author Professor Mark Bellis and colleagues concluded that a child who has been exposed to verbal, physical and mental abuse or alcoholism, drug use or domestic violence is more likely to suffer poor health outcomes as a consequence.
Socio-demographic factors were accounted for in the study, with the researchers wanting to stress their findings are not simply from children who have suffered ACEs in “deprived” homes.
Bellis said: “This report shows how experiencing abuse and other problems in childhood are linked with increased levels of chronic disease in adulthood and much greater use of healthcare. What happens to us as children can make our bodies develop differently, leaving them more vulnerable to conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease in later life.”
Bellis added that finding solutions “cannot be achieved by the NHS” alone and a change in approach is required. “That is why we are working with our key partners, including the government, police, local authorities, charitable and voluntary sector organisations, to develop a joined-up approach to prevent ACEs and support adults whose health is suffering because of childhood trauma.”

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