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Childhood Maltreatment and Dementia Risk Factors in Midlife: A Prospective Investigation.

BACKGROUND: Previous studies have linked childhood adversities to dementia risk, yet most studies are cross-sectional in design and utilize retrospective self-reports to assess childhood experiences. These design characteristics make it difficult to establish temporal order and draw firm conclusions.

OBJECTIVE: Using a longitudinal design, we sought to determine whether childhood maltreatment predicts dementia risk factors in middle adulthood.

METHODS: Data have been obtained from a prospective cohort design study of children with documented cases of childhood maltreatment (ages 0-11 years at case identification) and demographically matched controls who were followed up and interviewed in middle adulthood. Outcomes were assessed through a medical examination and interview, and 807 of the cases that included blood collection at mean age 41 and dementia risk were investigated using 11 potentially modifiable risk factors.

RESULTS: Compared to controls, individuals with histories of childhood maltreatment had a higher risk of low educational attainment, low social contact, smoking, and clinical depression, and a higher total number of dementia risk factors. In general, childhood maltreatment predicted a higher risk of dementia for females, males, and Black and White participants. Black maltreated participants had a greater risk for traumatic brain injury compared to Black controls. Physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect, each predicted a higher number of dementia risk factors in mid-life.

CONCLUSION: These findings provide evidence that childhood maltreatment increases the risk for dementia in mid-life and has a demonstrable impact lasting over 30 years. Reducing the prevalence of mid-life dementia risk factors could reduce the risk of later-life dementia.

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