Kids and teens who experience bullying, neglect, abuse, or other forms of adversity are at increased risk for developing heart disease later in life, according to a statement issued by the American Heart Association (AHA) and published in Circulation. The statement is based on an analysis of existing research published in peer-reviewed medical journals.
According to the AHA, research suggests a strong correlation between adverse experiences in childhood and adolescence and a greater likelihood of heart disease risk factors, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes in adulthood. It also suggests that unhealthy responses to adversity early in life (overeating, smoking, or substance abuse, for example), mental health problems and chronic stress, and other factors can contribute to this increased risk.
The risk affects a lot of people: About 60 percent of Americans experience an adverse event as children or teens, which could include anything the child perceives as a threat to his or her physical safety or family or social structure – abuse, violence, homelessness, poverty, neglect, bullying, discrimination, or parental substance abuse, separation, divorce, or death of a loved one.