Sex-specific relationships between adverse childhood experiences and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in five states

Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis. 2014 Sep 26;9:1033-42. doi: 10.2147/COPD.S68226. eCollection 2014.


Purpose: Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) before age 18 have been repeatedly associated with several chronic diseases in adulthood such as depression, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and stroke. We examined sex-specific relationships between individual ACEs and the number of ACEs with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in the general population.

Materials and methods: Data from 26,546 women and 19,015 men aged ≥18 years in five states of the 2011 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System were analyzed. We used log-linear regression to estimate prevalence ratios (PRs) and their corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for the relationship of eight ACEs with COPD after adjustment for age group, race/ethnicity, marital status, educational attainment, employment, asthma history, health insurance coverage, and smoking status.

Results: Some 63.8% of women and 62.2% of men reported ≥1 ACE. COPD was reported by 4.9% of women and 4.0% of men. In women, but not in men, there was a higher likelihood of COPD associated with verbal abuse (PR =1.30, 95% CI: 1.05, 1.61), sexual abuse (PR =1.69, 95% CI: 1.36, 2.10), living with a substance abusing household member (PR =1.49, 95% CI: 1.23, 1.81), witnessing domestic violence (PR =1.40, 95% CI: 1.14, 1.72), and parental separation/divorce (PR =1.47, 95% CI: 1.21, 1.80) during childhood compared to those with no individual ACEs. Reporting ≥5 ACEs (PR =2.08, 95% CI: 1.55, 2.80) compared to none was associated with a higher likelihood of COPD among women only.

Conclusion: ACEs are related to COPD, especially among women. These findings underscore the need for further research that examines sex-specific differences and the possible mechanisms linking ACEs and COPD. This work adds to a growing body of research suggesting that ACEs may contribute to health problems later in life and suggesting a need for program and policy solutions.

Keywords: abuse; childhood; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; sex.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child Abuse, Sexual
  • Divorce
  • Domestic Violence
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / diagnosis
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / epidemiology*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / psychology
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult