Objective: Childhood adversities have been linked to poor health outcomes in adults, including both mood and general medical disorders. Here we tested the hypothesis that childhood adversities specifically increase the risk of comorbidity between mood and general medical disorders, rather than increasing the risk of either one independently.
Methods: Mood disorders (DSM-IV major depressive, dysthymic and bipolar disorders), childhood adversities and general medical disorders were assessed in 2060 adults in the WHO World Mental Health Survey Portugal. Discrete-time survival analyses were used to investigate the association between mood disorders and subsequent first-onset general medical disorders and between general medical disorders and subsequent first-onset mood disorders, in adults. Discrete-time survival and multinomial regression analyses were used to test the influence of childhood adversities on the comorbidity between mood disorders and general medical disorders. Anxiety disorders were used as a psychiatric control.
Results: Adult-onset mood disorders were found to precede the onset of diabetes (OR:1.8; 95% CI:1.2-2.9), arthritis (OR:1.6; 95% CI:1.1-2.3) and seasonal allergies (OR:1.6; 95% CI:1.1-2.5) while adult-onset hypertension was found to precede the onset of mood disorders (OR:1.7; 95% CI:1.2-2.6). Maladaptive family functioning (abuse, neglect and parental maladjustment), was associated with mood disorders (OR:1.5; 95% CI:1.2-1.9), hypertension (OR:1.4; 95% CI:1.1-1.7), arthritis (OR:1.3; 95% CI:1.0-1.6) and seasonal allergies (OR:1.5; 95% CI:1.1-2.0) in adulthood. Finally, the effect of maladaptive family functioning in predicting comorbid mood disorders and arthritis significantly differed from its effect in predicting only arthritis (p = 0.01), which was not observed for other comorbidities. Maladaptive family functioning further predicted comorbid anxiety disorders and hypertension.
Conclusion: Childhood adversities may be a specific risk factor for comorbid mood disorders and arthritis in adults.