PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] New research shows that people who grew up in a household where a member was incarcerated have a 16-percent greater risk of experiencing poor health quality than adults who did not have a family member sent to prison. The finding, which accounted for other forms of childhood adversity, suggests that the nation's high rate of imprisonment may be independently imparting enduring physical and mental health difficulties in some families.
"These people were children when this happened, and it was a significant disruptive event," said Annie Gjelsvik, assistant professor of epidemiology in the Brown University School of Public Health and lead author of the study published in the Journal of Healthcare for the Poor and Underserved. "That disruptive event has long-term adverse consequences."
The study is based on data gathered from more than 81,000 adults who responded to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, a standardized national assessment of health. In 2009 and 2010, 12 states and the District of Columbia included questions about childhood adversity, including this question about the first 18 years of life: "Did you live with anyone who served time or was sentenced to serve time in a prison, jail or other correctional facility?"
The states were Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Tennessee, Washington in 2009 and Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, Washington D.C., and Wisconsin in 2010.
Gjelsvik and her co-authors analyzed the survey results to see if there were overall health quality differences between those who answered yes or no. In the survey, respondents were asked how many days out of the last month they experienced bad mental or physical health. If the total exceeded 14 days their overall health quality was considered poor.
Of 81,910 respondents 3,717, or 4.5 percent, said they grew up in a household where an adult family membe
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