Multimorbidity receives increasing scientific attention. So does the detrimental health impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACE). Aetiological pathways from ACE to complex disease burdens are under investigation. In this context, the concept of allostatic overload is relevant, denoting the link between chronic detrimental stress, widespread biological perturbations and disease development. This study aimed to explore associations between self-reported childhood quality, biological perturbations and multimorbidity in adulthood.
We included 37 612 participants, 30-69 years, from the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study, HUNT3 (2006-8). Twenty one chronic diseases, twelve biological parameters associated with allostatic load and four behavioural factors were analysed. Participants were categorised according to the self-reported quality of their childhood, as reflected in one question, alternatives ranging from 'very good' to 'very difficult'. The association between childhood quality, behavioural patterns, allostatic load and multimorbidity was compared between groups.
Overall, 85.4% of participants reported a 'good' or 'very good' childhood; 10.6% average, 3.3% 'difficult' and 0.8% 'very difficult'. Childhood difficulties were reported more often among women, smokers, individuals with sleep problems, less physical activity and lower education. In total, 44.8% of participants with a very good childhood had multimorbidity compared to 77.1% of those with a very difficult childhood (Odds ratio: 5.08; 95% CI: 3.63-7.11). Prevalences of individual diseases also differed significantly according to childhood quality; all but two (cancer and hypertension) showed a significantly higher prevalence (p