Stressful childhood experiences have negative long-term health consequences. The present study examines the association between adverse childhood experiences, socioeconomic position, and risk of psychotropic medication in young adulthood.
This register-based cohort study comprises the birth cohorts between 1985 and 1988 in Sweden. We followed 362 663 individuals for use of psychotropic medication from January 2006 until December 2008. Adverse childhood experiences were severe criminality among parents, parental alcohol or drug abuse, social assistance recipiency, parental separation or single household, child welfare intervention before the age of 12, mentally ill or suicidal parents, familial death, and number of changes in place of residency. Estimates of risk of psychotropic medication were calculated as odds ratio (OR) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) using logistic regression analysis.
Adverse childhood experiences were associated with increased risks of psychotropic medication. The OR for more than three adverse childhood experiences and risk of psychotropic medication was for women 2.4 (95% CI 2.3-2.5) and for men 3.1 (95% CI 2.9-3.2). The risk of psychotropic medication increased with a higher rate of adverse childhood experiences, a relationship similar in all socioeconomic groups.
Accumulation of adverse childhood experiences increases the risk of psychotropic medication in young adults. Parental educational level is of less importance when adjusting for adverse childhood experiences. The higher risk for future mental health problems among children from lower socioeconomic groups, compared to peers from more advantaged backgrounds, seems to be linked to a higher rate of exposure to adverse childhood experiences.