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Mayo Clinic researchers examine the psychological impact of child abuse

SAN FRANCISCO -- According to a new Mayo Clinic study, a history of child abuse significantly impacts the wide range of challenges facing depressed inpatients. Included are an increase in suicide attempts, prevalence of substance use disorder, and a higher incidence rate of personality disorder. Additionally, these victims also had an earlier onset of mental illness and an increase in psychiatric hospitalizations for psychiatric issues. The study was presented at the American Psychiatric Association 2009 Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

The impact of child abuse already is known to increase the risk of suicide, however the literature about other characteristics of depressed victims of child abuse is scarce. Although the findings of the Mayo study do not confirm causality, the information stresses the importance of more aggressive approaches from the public health perspective to prevent child abuse. "A history of child abuse makes most psychiatric illnesses worse," according to Magdalena Romanowicz, M.D., lead author of the study. "We found that it significantly impacts the wide range of characteristics of depressed inpatients including increased risk of suicide attempt, substance abuse, as well as earlier onset of mental illness and more psychiatric hospitalizations. This new information serves as a reminder of the importance of child abuse prevention from a public health perspective."

Dr. Romanowicz says plans are under way to further examine the association between child abuse and metal illness in a larger study of patients.


Contact: John Murphy
Mayo Clinic

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