Childhood trauma and its impact on depressive and anxiety symptomatology in adulthood: A 6-year longitudinal study

J Affect Disord. 2022 Sep 1:312:322-330. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2022.06.057. Epub 2022 Jun 24.


Background: Childhood trauma (CT) is a risk factor for depressive and anxiety disorders. However, whether CT is more strongly linked to specific clinical features of these disorders remains inconclusive. The current study comprehensively examined cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between CT and depressive/anxiety symptomatology in a large adult sample with current and remitted depressive and/or anxiety disorders.

Methods: Baseline (n = 1803), 2-year (n = 1735), 4-year (n = 1585), and 6-year follow-up (n = 1475) data from the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety were used. CT (emotional neglect, emotional/physical/sexual abuse) was assessed at baseline, while depressive/anxiety symptomatology with relevant dimensions (e.g., mood/cognitive, melancholic, general distress, and somatic depression) was assessed at each wave using self-reported questionnaires. Linear regressions and linear mixed models determined cross-sectional and longitudinal associations.

Results: Individuals with CT, especially, severe CT, compared to those without CT, had significantly higher scores in overall depressive symptomatology (Cohen's d = 0.674), mood/cognitive depression (d = 0.691), melancholic depression (d = 0.587), general distress (d = 0.561), and somatic depression severity (d = 0.549). Differences were lower, but still highly significant for anxiety (d = 0.418), worry (d = 0.362), and fear/phobic symptomatology (d = 0.359). Effects were consistent across CT types and maintained over six years.

Limitations: Retrospectively-reported CT.

Conclusions: CT is a risk factor for depressive and anxiety symptomatology across all dimensions and enduring over multiple years. Screening for CT is essential to identify individuals at risk for more severe and chronic manifestations of affective disorders.

Keywords: Anxiety; Childhood trauma; Depression; Heterogeneity; Symptoms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences*
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies