A team of researchers from the University of Georgia recently discovered through a study that girls that go through abuse or maltreatment have a higher likelihood of experiencing more inflammation than boys who also go through abuse. The researchers believe that the results of the study can be used by medical practitioners to predict chronic physical and mental health problems later in life.
The study was the first of its kind to explore the link between childhood abuse and inflammation. The latter has been observed in many health conditions such as obesity, stroke, cardiovascular disease, and even diabetes. Inflammation is also associated with mental health problems. The latest research findings suggest that the inflammation associated with maltreatment eventually shows up later when the child becomes an adult.
“We and others have speculated that there’s something about the immune system that’s getting calibrated, particularly during childhood, that might be setting people up on long-term trajectories toward accelerated health problems,” stated Katherine Ehrlich, the lead psychologist in the study.
Ehrlich also pointed out that she was surprised that the effects of the inflammation caused by maltreatment can be seen very early in life. She noted that quite a number of children have varying levels of inflammation, which, according to the American Heart Association, represents a significant risk of heart disease. In other words, children that have gone through maltreatment, especially girls, are at a high risk of suffering inflammation-related health problems.
How the scientists determined the relationship between maltreatment and inflammation
The researchers evaluated 155 children enrolled in the study. The children ranged between 8 and 12 years old, and they were from low-income households who attend day camps that last an entire week. Some of the children had gone through maltreatment in the past, while some other children were lucky enough not to go through such. The researchers observed the biomarkers of low-grade inflammation to conclude the findings.
The study results showed that girls who had gone through maltreatment in their lives were more likely to experience higher levels of inflammation towards the end of their childhood. During the early stages of their lives, the girls were more likely to experience elevated forms of low-grade inflammation.