Associations of Adverse Childhood Experiences with Frailty in Older Adults: A Cross-Sectional Analysis of Data from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • <b><i>Introduction:</i></b> Frailty in older adults, characterized by a decline in multiple physiological systems and increasing vulnerability to loss of independence, disability, and death, is a public health priority in developed countries. Etiology of frailty extends across the lifespan and may begin in early life, but empirical evidence for this association is scarce. In this study, we examined whether adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are associated with frailty in later life. <b><i>Methods:</i></b> We conducted a cross-sectional analysis of data for a population-based sample of 27,748 adults aged 45–85 years from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging. The frailty index (FI) was computed with 76 health-related characteristics of physical and cognitive performance, self-rated health, chronic conditions, visual and hearing ability, activities of daily living, and well-being. Self-reported exposure to ACEs included physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, neglect, and witnessing intimate partner violence prior age of 16 and parental death, divorce, and living with a family member with mental illness prior age of 18. Generalized linear regression models with gamma error distribution and identity link function, adjusted for age and sex, were used to examine associations of each ACE type and the number of ACE types (0, 1, 2, or 3+) reported by an individual with FI. All models were adjusted for income, education, smoking, and alcohol consumption in sensitivity analysis. <b><i>Results:</i></b> Individuals exposed to ACEs had elevated levels of FI (mean = 0.13, SD = 0.09) than those unexposed, with the largest difference observed for neglect (<i>B</i> [95% CI]: 0.05 [0.04, 0.06]) and the smallest for parental death and divorce (0.015 [0.01,0.02]). The ACE count was associated with frailty in a graded manner, with the FI difference reaching 0.04 [0.037, 0.044] for participants exposed to 3+ ACE types. The association between ACEs and frailty tended to be stronger for women than men and for men aged 45–64 years than older men. <b><i>Conclusions:</i></b> Our study supports previous studies showing that exposure to ACEs is associated with frailty in adults. Our findings suggest that screening for ACEs involving childhood maltreatment may be useful for identifying individuals at risk of frailty and prevention of ACEs may have long-term benefits for healthy aging.

publication date

  • December 7, 2021