Sexually Abused Men at Greater Risk for Heart Attacks

The myriad effects of child sexual abuse have been well documented, from the physical damage to emotional scars it leaves behind. Now, a new study conducted by the University of Toronto indicates that child sexual abuse truly is a heart-breaking act.

Results of the study, published this week in the Child Abuse & Neglect journal, indicated that men who had experienced childhood sexual abuse are three times more likely to have a heart attack than men who were not sexually abused.

Esme Fuller-Thompson, lead author of the study, and Professor Sandra Rotman, chair at University of Toronto's Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, said those results were surprising, considering that they had adjusted the statistics for the high-risk lifestyle factors that are typical of adult abuse survivors. 

"We had expected that the abuse-heart attack link would be due to unhealthy behaviors in sexual abuse survivors, such as higher rates of alcohol use or smoking, or increased levels of general stress and poverty in adulthood when compared to non-abused males," Fuller Thompson said in her report. "However, we adjusted statistically for 15 potential risk factors for heart attack, including age, race, obesity, smoking, physical inactivity, diabetes mellitus, education level and household income, and still found a three-fold risk of heart attack."

The same increase in heart attacks was not found in female victims of childhood sexual abuse, although the researchers said it could be attributed to the fact that women are more likely to express their emotions and seek counseling, while men are more likely to suppress their emotions. 



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