Subtle Long-Term Impacts of Child Sexual Abuse on Women

Experiencing abuse as a child means more than a higher risk of mental illness. Researchers are learning that abused children are at risk for various long-term physical issues as well.

Women who reported being sexually abused as children were 49 percent more likely to start their periods early – which means before they turned 11 years old – compared to women who did not experience childhood sexual abuse.

A girl who starts her period outside the average age range can be at higher risk for a number of life conditions. Women who start early, before age 11, are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease, metabolic problems, cancer and depression.

"There is a need for future research to explore characteristics of child abuse that may influence health outcomes including type, timing and severity of abuse, as well as the social context in which the abuse occurs," she said.

The study was published July 25 in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

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