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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Columbia: The Long-term Physical-Psychiatric Effects of Childhood Trauma

Faculty at the New York Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health presented findings at the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Annual Meeting. The research – the largest longitudinal, face to face study of individuals exposed to the 9/11 attack as children — showed that even a single exposure to mass trauma in childhood is associated with both psychiatric and physical problems for decades.

Their poster was one of four selected from hundreds submitted for presentation at the May 19th press conference.

The research was carried out by the Global Psychiatric Epidemiology Group, led by epidemiologist Dr. Christina Hoven.  At APA, lead investigator Dr. Lawrence Amsel, reported that 14 years after 9/11 individuals who had a direct exposure to this mass trauma as children have higher rates of psychiatric disorders, physical disorders and physical-psychiatric comorbidities than a matched control group. While there has been extensive research into the long-term consequences of 9/11 exposure among those exposed as adults, there has been far less research on how traumatic experiences during childhood affect long-term physical-psychiatric status throughout the lifespan.

Individuals with direct exposure to 9/11 were more likely to have had a psychiatric disorder in the past year, compared to those not exposed (36 percent vs. 28 percent) and to have had any lifetime physical health condition (27 percent vs. 11 percent). They also found that the exposed group had significantly greater functional impairment.

“Clinicians treating individuals at any age who had experienced a childhood trauma “should pay attention to mind-body consequences, regardless of whether the presentation is for physical or psychiatric complaints,” noted Drs. Hoven and Amsel.