History of Childhood Adversity Tied to Higher COVID-19 Mortality Risks

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Resume: A recent study found that individuals who experienced adversities such as neglect or abuse in childhood were more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19 or in adulthood.

Analyzing more than 151,200 adults from the UK Biobank, researchers linked increased reports of early life adversity to a 12-25% increased risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes. This association remained significant even after other known risk factors were taken into account.

The findings underscore the far-reaching impact of early life trauma on health outcomes, even decades later.

Key Facts:

  1. The study analyzed data from more than 151,200 adults, finding that people with childhood adversities had a 12-25% higher chance of severe COVID-19 outcomes.
  2. This study is the first to link hospitalizations and mortality risks from COVID-19 with child abuse and neglect.
  3. The findings suggest that understanding early life experiences may be critical in addressing COVID-19 disparities.

Source: University of Pittsburgh

A new study from the University of Pittsburgh shows that people who experienced childhood adversities, such as abuse or neglect, were more likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19. Specifically, higher self-reported childhood adversity was linked to a 12-25% higher risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19.

Although age, gender, ethnicity, health and socio-demographic factors have been associated with such outcomes during the pandemic, this was the first study to find a link between these COVID-19 outcomes and childhood neglect and abuse.

In other words, as the co-authors wrote, not only COVID-19, but such findings could be used “to limit the negative consequences of future pandemics.” Credit: Neuroscience News

Using the UK Biobank in Great Britain, a team – led by Jamie L. Hanson, a researcher at Pitt’s Learning Research & Development Center and an assistant professor of psychology at the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences – took a deep dive into information provided by more than 151,200 middle-aged or older adults.

What the numbers showed was that people who reported “adversity,” such as abuse or neglect while their children were busy, were more likely to die or be hospitalized as a result of COVID-19.

The study was published on November 1 in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the journal of the British Medical Association that focuses on various social determinants of health.

“These findings highlight how trauma early in life can have long-lasting health consequences decades later,” Hanson said.

“We know that COVID-19 is linked to excessive hospitalizations and deaths in Britain and the United States. And there is new research showing that facing adversity, abuse or neglect at a young age can have significant consequences for physical health.

“But no one had tried to connect these two trends. Knowing a little more about a person’s early development may be important to help reduce COVID-19 disparities.”

While Hanson and his co-authors argue that their work opens the door for more precise and global research, they believe their findings demonstrate that there may be a need for policies and interventions to reduce the impact of COVID-19 in people suffering such adversities suffered in childhood. .

“We may need targeted interventions for individuals and certain communities affected by childhood adversity to reduce the lasting impact of the pandemic,” Hanson said.

“Adversity can lead to a risk of negative outcomes and the chance of long-term COVID-19. We need to complete more work to understand how adversity gets ‘under the skin’ and increases vulnerability to ill health after COVID-19 infections.”

In other words, as the co-authors wrote, not only COVID-19, but such findings could be used “to limit the negative consequences of future pandemics.”

About this childhood trauma and COVID-19 research news

Author: Nicholas France
Source: University of Pittsburgh
Contact: Nicholas France – University of Pittsburgh
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original research: Open access.
“Childhood Adversity and COVID-19 Outcomes in the UK Biobank” by Jamie L. Hanson et al. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health


Childhood adversity and COVID-19 outcomes in the UK Biobank


This study aims to investigate the association between childhood adversity and COVID-19-related hospital admissions and COVID-19-related mortality in the UK Biobank.


Cohort study.




151,200 participants in the UK Biobank cohort who completed the Childhood Trauma Screen were alive at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic (January 2020) and were still active in the UK Biobank when hospitalization and mortality data were last collected updated (November 2021). ).

Main outcome measures

COVID-19-related hospitalization and COVID-19-related mortality.


Higher self-reports of childhood adversity were associated with greater odds of COVID-19-related hospitalization in all statistical models. In models adjusted for age, ethnicity, and gender, childhood adversity was associated with an odds ratio (OR) of 1.227 hospitalizations (95% CI 1.153 to 1.306, childhood adversity). z=6.49, p<0.005) and an OR of 1.25 for a COVID-19 related death (95% CI 1.11 to 1.424, childhood adversities z=3.5, p<0.005). Adjusting for potential confounders attenuated these associations, although the associations remained statistically significant.


Childhood adversities were significantly associated with COVID-19-related hospitalizations and COVID-19-related mortality, after adjusting for sociodemographic and health confounders. Further research is needed to clarify the biological and psychosocial processes

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