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Adult Traumas Can Harm Seniors' Health

Cumulative effect can lead to more illness as you age, study finds

MONDAY, Dec. 13, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Your health in your later years can be affected by cumulative psychological trauma you've experienced throughout your life, says a study in the December issue of Psychology and Aging.

Psychological trauma includes witnessing a violent crime, being in combat, or suffering a serious or life-threatening illness.

Researchers surveyed 1,518 American adults aged 65 and older to determine if cumulative lifetime trauma affected their health and the incidence of acute and chronic health conditions and functional disability.

The study found that trauma experienced when a person was between 18 and 30 years old and between 31 and 64 years old had the greatest effect on an older person's current health. Trauma encountered in adulthood had more effect on adult health than trauma experienced during childhood.

"Trauma could have the same adverse effects on children as adults, but the effects on children may dissipate by the time they reach adulthood," researcher Neal Krause, of the University of Michigan, said in a prepared statement.

The findings suggest that doctors need to be aware that cumulative trauma may explain why some older people are more likely to become ill than others.

"It may be necessary to routinely ask older people who are having health problems if they experienced a trauma during the intake examination. Many health-care providers already ask about stressful events when taking medical histories, but knowing if trauma existed may provide additional insight to a person's current state of health," Krause said.

More information

The Sidran Institute has more about psychological trauma.

SOURCE: American Psychological Association, news release, Dec. 12, 2004
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