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Childhood Adversities, including Parental Alcoholism, Play a Role in Peptic Ulcers

New research shows that childhood adversities such as long-lasting financial difficulties, serious family conflicts, and a seriously or chronically ill family member have a predictive role in peptic ulcer. Adjusting for smoking, heavy drinking, stress, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) use had no further influence.

Science Daily reports that smoking and NSAID use are the most important risk factors for peptic ulcer, and alcohol intake may also play a role in the development of gastric ulcers. Psychological stress can also have an impact on the onset and course of ulcer disease. However, very little is known as to whether childhood adversities involving financial problems, conflicts in the family, problems with alcohol, and matters of personal security are associated with peptic ulcer.

Dr. Markku Sumanen and his colleagues of the Health and Social Support Study (HeSSup) investigated this subject in a nationwide sample of working-aged people in Finland. The participants were asked whether a doctor had told them that they have or have had a peptic ulcer. They were also asked to think about their childhood adversities in terms of divorce, financial difficulties, serious conflicts, a family member being seriously or chronically ill, being afraid of a family member, and a family member having alcohol problems.

The most common childhood adversities were long-lasting financial difficulties, serious family conflicts, and someone in the family having been seriously or chronically ill. All adversities reported were more common among peptic ulcer patients than other respondents.

Alcohol problems in the family and fear of some member of the family were also more common among peptic ulcer patients than other respondents. With regard to parental divorce, there was no statistically significant difference between the two groups.

Age- and sex-adjusted odds ratios of childhood adversities for peptic ulcer were statistically significant, indicating that participants with childhood adversities had a higher risk of developing peptic ulcer. Adjusting also for smoking, heavy drinking, stress and current NSAID use had no further influence. Long-lasting financial difficulties in the family had the greatest influence.

The findings suggest that there is reason to believe that stress factors during childhood maintain a connection with the development of peptic ulcers. Childhood adversities are not necessarily true risk factors for peptic ulcer, but may play a predictive role in the development of the disease.

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