Child abuse linked to asthma in black women

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Physical and/or sexual abuse may be potential asthma causes in black women. In fact, abuse may more than double the odds of a child having asthma.  Researchers have made a connection between childhood abuse suffered by African-American women and asthma, which develops later in their lives.

As part of the Black Women’s Health Study at the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University, conducted from 1995 to 2011, a total of 28,456 women gave information on physical and sexual abuse suffered before age 11, as well as between the ages of 12 and 18.

The study found that an African-American woman who suffered abuse as a child saw her chances of developing asthma later in life increase 20 percent.

The link between physical abuse and asthma was stronger than that seen between sexual abuse and asthma, researchers said. Physical abuse includes actions intended to injure a child, while sexual abuse includes actions intended for the gratification of the abuser.

“This is the first prospective study to show an association between childhood abuse and adult-onset asthma,” Patricia Coogan, the lead author of the report, said in a statement. “The results suggest that chronic stress contributes to asthma onset, even years later.”

Coogan said childhood abuse causes stress that leads to “physiological consequences.” The stress of living in an abusive situation takes a toll on the body, specifically “on the immune system and on airway development.”

“Given the high prevalence of asthma and of childhood abuse in the United States, the association is of significant public health importance,” said Coogan, a senior epidemiologist at the Slone Epidemiology Center and an associate professor of epidemiology at the Boston University School of Public Health.

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