Stroke Risk linked to childhood neglect

-Dr.Dianne McCallister ,Chief Medical Officer at Porter Adventist Hospital

Emotional neglect can impact rates of illness  when a person become adults.
 A new study presented by the American Academy of Neurology links emotional neglect  in children with an increased risk for strokes in adulthood.     

In this study, the researchers sent surveys to 1040 participants  age 55 and older to assess their experiences as children.  

Questions included:

  •  Whether the participant felt loved by their caregiver
  •  Were they made to feel afraid or intimidated
  •  Were they punished with a belt or other object.
  •  Divorce and financial need

The researchers then followed the group for a period of years, and did follow up on their health.  

Researchers were focused on stroke. But they also took other diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart problems into account.

They also checked whether the participants were smoking, physically active or had poor diets.

Stroke Risk 

Even taking all risk factors for stroke into account, those who reported having moderately high levels of emotional neglect were three times more likely to have a stroke than those who reported moderately low levels of neglect.

There have been studies in the past linking psychiatric illness to childhood emotional and physical abuse - but new research is indicating a link to physical problems as well, as this one does.  

Reasons For Link

There are many reasons this could be linked - for example, we know that stress is linked to diseases such as stroke and heart disease.  

Obviously, emotional neglect is a form of stress.

However, the research does not show why the link is there - only that it is present.

Prevention and Treatment 

As adults, it is our responsibility to make sure that children get what they need - including the meeting of their emotional needs.

 If you suspect a child is in danger, you should report it to authorities so they, and their families, can get the help they need.
If you were emotionally neglected as a child, you may need counseling to help decrease the stress you may still feel from that experience - which will also help you have more successful relationships in the present.

Talk to your physician about ways to reduce your risk for stroke.
Finally, we all have children in our lives - friends, neighbors or family - be sure and show them care and concern.

Research shows that children can thrive when some adult is "there for them."  Be a scout leader, a church/religious teacher, boys or girls club volunteer. We can all make a difference.

Dr. McCallister is on 7NEWS at 11 a.m. every Wednesday. If you have a topic or question you would like her to discuss, email

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