If you didn’t have affectionate, loving parents, I’m sure you are aware of the consequences in your longterm relationships. But now research out of UCLA has made a link between abuse, neglect, lack of love and physical health.
The study, available online at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that adults who have had toxic childhood stress have physical arousal systems that are not only hyper-sensitive to threats, but simply don’t turn off easily. In other words, negative early life experiences amp up a regulatory system and high levels of stress are linked sickness. For the study, more than 700 adults completed a survey about their early family life called “The Risky Families Questionnaire” and then were given a battery of physical tests that included measuring blood pressure, cholesterol levels, waist circumference, heart rate, blood sugar, etc. And, surprise, surprise, those who had unloving, non-affectionate parents — those with attachment injuries — tended to have much higher risk factors for serious disease.
Of course, linking two factors together, in theis case, bad parents and bad health, doesn’t always mean causality, but it would certainly be fair to infer that those with unloving parents may grow up to self medicate their emotional injuries with unhealthy lifestyle choices — like over eating, alcohol, smoking, or drugs.
The big take away, besides reminding good parents to keep up the good work, is for governments to not underestimate the importance of parenting. Both parenting classes and early childhood programs as part of the national healthcare debate. Breaking the cycle of abuse by giving support to parents who could use some tools, can ultimately reduce longterm national healthcare costs.