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Past Trauma Tied to Worse Mental Health During Pandemic for Aging Women

History of childhood abuse or intimate partner violence linked to greater depression, anxiety, and sleep problems during COVID-19 pandemic

FRIDAY, Sept. 24, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Aging women with a history of childhood abuse or intimate partner violence (IPV) have reported worse mental health, sleep, and conflict during the COVID-19 pandemic compared with women without these adverse experiences, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the North American Menopause Society, held from Sept. 22 to 25 in Washington, D.C.

Karen P. Jakubowski, Ph.D., from the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues assessed whether prepandemic histories of childhood abuse or adult IPV were associated with elevated depression, anxiety, conflict, or sleep problems during the pandemic among older women. The analysis included survey results from 582 women participating in the longitudinal Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation.

The researchers found that overall, elevated COVID-19 depressive, anxiety, and sleep symptoms were reported by 27, 32, and 46 percent of women, respectively, while 29 percent reported elevated conflict with household members and 17 percent reported conflict with nonhousehold family. There was an association observed between childhood trauma and IPV and elevated depressive symptoms, sleep problems, and household conflict. There was also an association between childhood trauma and both elevated anxiety symptoms and conflict with nonhousehold family. When adjusting for prepandemic anxiety (for childhood trauma only) and sleep symptoms, significant associations remained, but not after adjusting for prepandemic depressive symptoms.

“We will likely be dealing with the emotional fall-out of the pandemic for many years,” Stephanie Faubion, M.D., medical director of the North American Menopause Society, said in a statement. “That’s why studies like this one are important for informing health care professionals as to which patients may be at greatest risk for mental health issues.”

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