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J Behav Med. 2009 Jun;32(3):255-69. doi: 10.1007/s10865-009-9199-2. Epub 2009 Jan 28.

Childhood trauma and adulthood physical health in Mexico.

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Department of Psychology, University of Hawaii, 2430 Campus Road, Gartley 110, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA.



The present study examined the effect of childhood trauma on adulthood physical health among a randomly selected sample of adults (N = 2,177) in urban Mexico.


Adults were interviewed about their experiences of trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and physical health symptoms using Module K of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview, the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, and the Physical Symptoms Checklist.


Trauma was prevalent, with 35% reporting a traumatic event in childhood. In general, men reported more childhood trauma than women, with the exception of childhood sexual violence where women reported more exposure. For men, childhood sexual violence was related to total and all physical health symptom subscales. For women, childhood sexual violence was related to total, muscular-skeletal, and gastrointestinal-urinary symptoms; hazards/accidents in childhood were related to total, muscular-skeletal, cardio-pulmonary, and nose-throat symptom subscales. Depression mediated the relationship between childhood sexual violence and physical health symptoms for men and women. Among women only, PTSD mediated the relationship between childhood sexual violence and total, muscular-skeletal, and gastrointestinal-urinary symptoms. PTSD also mediated the relationship between hazards/accidents in childhood and total, muscular-skeletal, cardio-pulmonary, and nose-throat symptoms.


These findings can be used to increase awareness among general practitioners, as well as community stakeholders, about the prevalence of childhood trauma in Mexican communities and its impact on subsequent physical health outcomes. With this awareness, screening practices could be developed to identify those with trauma histories in order to increase positive health outcomes among trauma survivors.

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