B4619 - Associations between adverse childhood experiences and cardiovascular risk factors in later life Exploring mechanisms and influ - 16/05/2024

B number: 
Principal applicant name: 
Alan Barker | Children’s Health and Exercise Research Centre, University of Exeter (UK)
Laura Macro, Prof. Sarah Halligan, Dr Lisa Price
Title of project: 
Associations between adverse childhood experiences and cardiovascular risk factors in later life: Exploring mechanisms and influ
Proposal summary: 

Existing research has demonstrated that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), such as exposure to violence or childhood abuse, may be associated with negative impacts upon health in later life - for example, increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). However, within their 2017 scientific statement the American Heart Association made a call for further research which used data collected prospectively, i.e., following a population from childhood through to adulthood, to improve the reliability of ACEs measurement (as opposed to recalling ACEs at an adult age) and allow for measurement of possible mechanisms linking adversity exposures to health outcomes in later life. To achieve this, the present project aims to assess how ACEs, measured at 0-16 years of age, may be associated with the risk of CVD measured in early adulthood, from the ALSPAC dataset. We aim to build upon existing research by looking into how various factors, such as mental health status and behaviours posing a detrimental risk upon health during childhood and adolescence (i.e. smoking or low levels of physical activity) might help to explain these relationships. Further, we will also address potential physiological mechanisms, such as biomarkers of inflammation, that might contribute to the associations between ACEs and CVD. It is also important to consider how socio-demographic factors or environmental factors such as social class, economic status of the family, and sex of the child could alter the strength of associations between ACEs and CVD; thus, the impacts of these factors will also be measured within our analyses.

Impact of research: 
Assessing the contribution of psychological, environmental and lifestyle risk factors to CVD simultaneously provides a novel, interdisciplinary, and comprehensive view of approaches which may be beneficial to improving the health and wellbeing of current and future generations across their lifespan. Furthermore, consideration of differences between societal groups may identify populations who are particularly vulnerable to mental health issues or adversity in childhood or those who may suffer greater impacts on cardiovascular health in adulthood. I would aim to share information beyond my organisation through publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal and through presentation of results at relevant conferences. Sharing the most important findings with local schools or mental health charities where possible would further build upon the impact of this research. Crucially, current governmental approaches towards tackling CVD focusing on diet and exercise may not be a successful long-term plan to reach proposed targets, based on evidence illustrating high rates of non-compliance to studies promoting physical activity and dietary interventions. As a result, the present research, which aims to assess the combined influence of psychological, environmental and lifestyle factors on cardiovascular health, could play a pivotal role in the future prevention of CVD.
Date proposal received: 
Thursday, 16 May, 2024
Date proposal approved: 
Thursday, 16 May, 2024
Epidemiology, Behaviour - e.g. antisocial behaviour, risk behaviour, etc., Mental health, Statistical methods, Biological samples -e.g. blood, cell lines, saliva, etc., Blood pressure, Statistical methods, BMI, Cardiovascular, Childhood - childcare, childhood adversity, Physical - activity, fitness, function, Puberty, Sex differences, Siblings, Social science