News Writer Catalina Perez reports on a recent University of Birmingham study, which links childhood maltreatment to asthma

Written by Catalina Pérez
I am an exchange student in the University of Birmingham. My native language is spanish, since I am chilean, and I study journalism.
Images by Korng Sok

In what is thought to be the first large-scale epidemiological study evaluating the relationship between childhood maltreatment and the development of atopy in a UK retrospective cohort, University of Birmingham’s researchers have found that patients who have experienced maltreatment during childhood have a higher risk of developing diseases like asthma, eczema and allergic rhino-conjunctivitis. The risk worsens when gender, and the severity of the maltreatment are considered.

According to the study, chronic stress leads to a proinflammatory state, and alteration in white blood cells counts. ‘It is this immune dysregulation which is thought to predispose patients to atopy’, states the article.

The study also found that the link between maltreatment and the prevalence of atopic diseases increases when differentiating by gender, with female patients showing more detrimental health consequences than males.

…patients who have experienced maltreatment during childhood have a higher risk of developing diseases like asthma

In fact, the severity of the childhood maltreatment is also a determining factor, given that the research states a stronger association of these illnesses with officially confirmed cases, likely to be more severe than the only suspected cases.

In response to the article, a UoB Biomedical Science student shared her experience with Redbrick: ‘I have eczema. I wasn’t mistreated as a child, but when I get very stressed my eczema flares up. So, I can see how that would correlate, because being mistreated increases stress and stress does have a big impact on health.’

A Nursing UoB student also commented how this sort of studies can be useful for her future career: ‘Research can help us provide better quality treatment because there’s more understanding of the background and context of atopic diseases. It’s also helpful because it can help with early prevention of diseases, so nurses like me can provide better treatment early on, before things get bad.’

The study emphasises the need to improve the public health approach to these diseases, to both ‘prevent and detect childhood maltreatment in the first instance’. They state the importance of secondary and tertiary prevention interventions, and the need for clinical awareness of the relations between maltreatment and atopic diseases, to understand how to better manage them.

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