Evidence of the profound effect of emotional trauma on children was revealed at the 63rd annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America (GSA). Esme Fuller-Thomson, Ph.D., and a team of colleagues from the University of Toronto, showed that children who experience a parental divorce are more likely to experience a stroke at some point in their lives: twice as likely, in fact, an astounding discovery given that the researchers controlled for smoking, obesity, exercise and alcohol consumption.
“Of the 13,134 total study respondents, 10.4 percent had experienced parental divorce during their childhood, and 1.9 percent reported that they had been diagnosed with a stroke at some point in their lives. When adjusting for age, race and gender, the odds of stroke were approximately 2.2 times higher for those who had experienced parental divorce.”
Dr. Fuller-Thomson has done other work investigating mind-body interactions and life-course perspectives on health and illness including, cancer, osteoarthritis, heart disease and migraines. “I’m fascinated by mind-body interactions and the importance of a life course perspective on health and illness,” she notes in an email from the conference. “I will certainly be continuing to investigate the role of early life experiences such as parental divorce and childhood physical abuse on adult health outcomes.
Fuller-Thomson recommends the book, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, by Robert M. Sapolsky, as one that touches on the issues she investigates.
You can learn more about this fascinating work at Fuller-Thomson’s webpage at:http://www.socialwork.utoronto.ca/faculty/bios/fuller-thomson.htm.